WSJ – Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Struggle with Access to Banking
Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for bringing much needed attention to the systemic banking issues many current and formerly incarcerated individuals face.
In its October 31, 2020 article, "Ex-Inmates Struggle in a Banking System Not Made for Them," the WSJ took an insightful look at these overwhelming challenges, including identity theft, the inability to obtain a driver's license due to unpaid court debts, and the difficulty in opening a basic checking account and getting a loan.1
As part of his investigative reporting to see what is being done to address some of these issues, the journalist reached out to us to learn more about a new Credit Union for Returning Citizens – our vision to start a new not-for-profit financial institution for formerly incarcerated people and their families. One of our advocacy team members, Aaron Smith, Founder of Escaping the Odds, was also featured in the article. He talked about his high level of frustration trying to resolve a serious identity theft issue while incarcerated. You can read the entire article here: WSJ Article
First Step Alliance is one of only a handful of organizations focused on improving access to financial services for formerly incarcerated individuals. In the coming months, we expect to launch our financial education and "Fresh Start" banking program initiatives with the Mississippi Center for Re-entry and Element Federal Credit Union. Our goal is to introduce these programs to many other re-entry organizations, and eventually start a new credit union for returning citizens.
We hope to reduce recidivism by helping people create a path to a healthy financial future –improved access to financial services can give formerly incarcerated people a real second chance.