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Toward Justice-Involved Financial Services: The Financial Challenges of Reentry, Part 1

This research exposes the growing financial challenges affecting justice-involved citizens and provides guidance for credit unions wanting to take concrete steps toward improving the financial well-being of their members.

Executive Summary

Justice-involved individuals is a term describing people who have involvement with the justice system, including the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, parolees, individuals on probation, and their family members.

The U.S. incarcerates more individuals than any other nation, and disproportionately targets people of color. The growing financialization of the justice system erodes the already fragile financial lives of justice-involved individuals and their families. Justice-involved individuals and their families typically live with some measure of financial vulnerability, and justice involvement disproportionately impacts ethnic and racial minorities. Your field of membership invariably includes justice-involved individuals and their families, most of whom face financial insecurity as a result.

If your organization has made a commitment to work toward improving the lives of Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and others facing financial vulnerability, this report will provide a relevant entry point for your organization.

What is the research about?

The primary purpose of this research is to raise awareness of the growing and unfair financial challenges affecting justice-involved citizens and to provide guidance for credit unions wanting to address these issues and better serve their members.

What are the credit union implications?

Credit unions are well positioned to serve justice-involved individuals by providing financial education and financial instruments to support saving, payments, and building creditworthiness. Credit unions can begin by taking the following actions:

  • Provide financial coaching in prison
  • Establish savings accounts in prison
  • Partner with community organizations
  • Engage in advocacy

Credit unions have an opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of thousands of individuals and their families. Supporting financial inclusion among community members is central to the credit union mission. We are hopeful that this work will have a positive economic impact on justice-involved members, their families, and your community more broadly. 

Download the executive summary below for more details and a printable version of this summary.

Filene’s Center for Consumer Financial Lives in Transition is generously funded by:

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