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The Impact Financial of Incarceration

For several years I led  an elementary financial planning seminar for men incarcerated in a halfway house in Newark.  I may have been the “teacher,” but I was the one who really got an education.

Most of the men and women who are released don’t have very much money to begin with. When they are released, they face daunting financial challenges.  Many prisons today – especially the provate, for profit variety – charge inmates for their incarceration.  A CNN Money story said that inmates in Florida can be charged up to $50 per day for their incarceration.  At the end of three-year sentence, an inmate could be billed for as much as $54,750. Prisoners are likely to have fines that were part of their sentence that they have to pay.  Plus interest. They may also have motor vehicle tickets, fines and interest. Men with children may have very large debts for child support.

The bottom line: an inmate returning to the community may have thousands and even tes of thousands of dollars in debt; while at the same time have no job, few job prospects and – by the way – have a felony conviction on his or her resume.

Is it any wonder that so many men and women re-offend?  Faced with massive debts, would you take a minimum wage job in a fast food restaurant (if you were lucky enough to land one) or would you return to criminal activity where you could earn much more money, much faster?

My personal finance self-help book, The Richest Man in New Babylon, follows one young man for one year from the day he is released from prison.  In the “parable” style of self-help books, it follows him as he meets people who help him address his financial challenges by teaching him “the rules.”

I’d like to create lesson plans, workbooks and supporting material to go with the book, and see it used as a text book for financial education for prisoners and ex-offenders.

This is a work in progress.  We’ll see where it leads.

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