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.
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.
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.