Monday, January 11, 2010

Would bank accounts for ex-prisoners reduce crime?

Here's an issue that arguably merits consideration when Texas' new reentry task force meets later this week, via Dr. Karen Franklin's excellent blog on forensic psychology: Establishing bank accounts for offenders when they're released on parole. In a post last month Franklin wrote:

Ever thought about how hard it would be to take care of basic business without a bank account or credit cards?

In the UK, an experimental project to open bank accounts for paroling prisoners has led to a remarkable finding: The ex-cons who got bank accounts were only half as likely as other parolees to reoffend.

And here's another remarkable finding: Four out of five of these guys had never had a bank account before.

A university-based study is presently evaluating the effort; see a report (pdf) released in December analyzing the outcomes so far. Researchers note that "without a bank account, measures to enable ex-prisoners to gain access to settled accommodation, employment and education are more complex and difficult to implement." More than 70% of ex-offenders for whom bank accounts were established continued to use them after release - a particularly striking finding considering how many had never before had any banking relationship.

In Texas, offenders are given a small sum in cash when they leave prison. How much more difficult would it be to establish a bank account with an institution in the town they'll be released and give them a debit card and pin number instead? In the best of all possible worlds, preparation for reentry would also include classes in personal financial management - especially if, as in the UK, most offenders never had a checking account before. Among account holders in the UK study, "52% said that they currently needed money advice" but "Only 14% of inmates had ever sought money or debt advice in the past."

Ex-prisoners' problems establishing bank accounts historically have been exacerbated by difficulties getting proper ID, but this year the Texas Lege passed HB 2161 which requires TDCJ to enter a memorandum agreement with the Department of Public Safety to get parolees a state ID card before they're released from prison. (Any readers with knowledge of how that initiative has played out during implementation, please let us know in the comments.) With the ID hurdle cleared up front, it seems like establishing a bank account prior to release wouldn't be that big of a stretch and could result in significant recidivism reductions.

12 comments:

KD said...

Well all that sounds good however, a bigger issue is a replacement social security card. If you do not have yours anymore and need to get a replacement it is an issue.

Only a few states have agreements with the SSA to help you replace yours. And note that it is only a replacement card, not applying for and receiving one if you have never had one.

MD VA and PA

CT

Philadelphia

There is supposed to be an agreement for all Federal Prisons.

How does one get a job if you don't have a ss card?

We need to make sure that they have all the tools that we can before they are released. If you can't get a job then how are you to pay your parole officer fees? If you don't pay then you can be locked up again.

sunray's wench said...

It would be equally useful for an inmate to be able toopen a bank account remotely while incarcerated. Inmates are sometimes left funds in relative's wills, which they cannot access because it is usually distributed by check. Inmates who are trying to support themselves by writing or selling craft shop items can only request payments be made into their TDCJ Fund, which requires a payment slip or use of JPay etc. Being able to give a real bank account number would be extremely useful and may encourage more inmates to try to provide for themselves and their families.

Faceless Man said...

KD,

There is a current parole policy (revised recently) that establishes procedures for assisting offenders with obtaining a new copy of their SS card. Once the offender is released, they are given the card by their DPO. If the offender cannot be assisted per that policy, they are referred to Project RIO representatives.

KD said...

Dear Faceless Man,

Although the policy is in place it is not being followed through on.

I have a young man in El Paso who was paroled recently. He had only 6 months to be on parole. His parole officer kept promising but never delivered. Caseloads are high and since this young man had very little time and wasn't a problem he was basically ignored.

It would be better if there was one person in El Paso who handled all of the requests for papers needed by the people released. Then that person would have the most knowledge of how to get all the necessary documents.

Instead of just leaving them out to dry.

Faceless Man said...

KD,

Sorry to hear about the young man not getting adequate help. Won't argue that caseloads are high. A lot of the processing depends upon if the forms are properly filled out by the offender, which SSA office they are processed in/through, coupled with the fact that current law require the cards be sent to the DPO instead of someone being able to go to the nearest SSA office to pick them up. Certainly not an excuse, but something of an exmplanation as to why it happens. If the officer blew him off, them shame on them. Has the young man not had any success trying to obtain the SS card on his own?

KD said...

Nope not yet. Has his Texas ID now though. Working under the table and slowly sliding down.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ generally orders and receives a new SS card on all offenders. When the card is received it is placed in the back pocket of the offender's permanent folder located/stored at the BOT in Huntsville. These SS cards should be given to each offender when they are released.

KD said...

If TDCJ gets them then is sure would be nice if they would pass them on when the guys are released. I peronsally have tried to help several young men get theirs as they were not helped at all in getting them.

I still do not find anywhere that Texas has an agreement with the SSA. If anyone can leave a link to it please do so. It would be most appreciated.

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Anonymous said...

A lot of these guys have a drawer full of IDs - your's, mine - just a bunch.

jerry said...

Very insightful article. Thank you.


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