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Prisoner reentry programs and financial education

Prisoner reentry programs often include personal financial education within a variety of other life skills classes. This may be in prisons, jails, or community programs. They may include money management in a variety of ways, but the rationale is much the same:

Why prisoner reentry programs include personal financial education:

  • Financial education for prisoner reentryWith most offender reentry programs, the ultimate goal is to reduce the recidivism rate. (In the US, over 600,000 individuals are released from prisons and jails each year, according to the SVORI Initiative. Approximately two-thirds are re-incarcerated within three years, according to estimates.”)
  • Many offenders have not previously learned about personal finance. Many offenders have not seen healthy money habits and attitudes modeled for them as they were growing up. Also, many prisoner reentry programs never had personal finance classes in school.
  • Having stable finances contributes to a more stable life and lifestyle. This can be illusive for ex-offenders. Being financially stable can also be a big element in self-worth.
  • Financial literacy and financial capability are central issues for those in prisoner reentry programs. Money becomes important:
    • because it is difficult for ex-offenders to find jobs.
    • to pay rent or get a place to live.
    • to eat.
    • to clothe one’s self, especially in light of finding a job.
    • to find a car or pay for other forms of transportation.
    • to provide for a family.
    • to repay debts (such as credit card debt, child support payments, alimony, even old parking tickets, etc.)
  • The top source of arguments between couples is money. When couples fight about money, it makes other parts of the relationship more difficult. With so many other relationship stresses, learning to manage and talk about money is especially important for offender reentry.

Of course, aside from prisoner reentry, many other programs include financial education for similar reasons. Many fatherhood programs (some of which already serve prisoner reentry participants) and asset-building programs for low-to-moderate income (LMI) groups have similar reasons for including personal financial education classes.

Why prisoner reentry programs use Money Habitudes in financial education classes:

  • Money Habitudes is a fun, hands-on teaching tool. Formatted like playing cards, it feels like a familiar game. Because it’s tactile, it gets inmates more involved than just listening to lectures, doing worksheets, or watching a PowerPoint presentation.
  • It’s a flexible tool. It can be used as a money personality assessment or as more of a financial conversation starter.
  • Much like a personal finance game, Money Habitudes is easy for facilitators to learn and easy to teach.
  • Individual offenders, couples, or groups can use the Money Habitudes cards. They find applications in personal finance classes, as well as marriage and relationship classes. Financial coaching and relationship or marriage counseling sessions can be them. They can also find applications in ex-offender support groups.
  • It gets inmates and ex-offenders to talk about money – and do it in a fun, effective, nonjudgmental way. As a result, the Money Habitudes money management game can be easily integrated with other materials. These might include prison reentry modules, life skill classes, personal finance curricula (including budgeting), communication and conflict resolution courses, etc. Examples include PREP, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, Dave Ramsey/Financial Peace University, Couple Checkup, etc.
  • It can serve as a quick money icebreaker or as a full class introducing money management. Using the cards can take a few minutes or can last for an hour or two.
  • Works with men and women; especially good feedback from guys who are not as open to sharing their feelings and talking about money.
  • As a money personality test, it addresses financial behavior, habits, attitudes, and money values. It transitions well to skills-based money management classes and curricula as well as budgets. Also works with employment and career counseling.
  • Used in concert with other prisoner reentry modules, including those specifically addressed by the Second Chance Act, including employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, and family programming.
  • Allows for financial classes to address behavior and relationship issues around money. Allows the application of communication and relationship classes and lessons to the significant issue of money and personal finances.
  • The cards use simple language and statements. Questions like, “When I’m stressed I go shopping?” key to lifestyle issues. They do not require an understanding of financial concepts and don’t require a participant to do math. Offender programs often use the Money Habitudes II cards, regardless of students’ ages.