ABA Foundation Highlights Strategies for Expanding Financial Inclusion to Persons with Criminal Records

Banks are employing a number of successful strategies to help promote financial inclusion among individuals with criminal records, the American Bankers Association Foundation noted today in a new white paper. Effective strategies can include offering access to low-cost bank accounts, partnering with local or state departments of corrections to allow individuals with criminal records to cash certain kinds of checks, and factoring “inclusive design” into bank products and services by modifying restrictions that may result in unintended denials of service for these individuals, the paper noted.

The paper highlights real-world examples of how banks are expanding access to financial services to justice-involved persons, including a partnership between banks and Lansing, Michigan’s Office of Financial Empowerment to offer Bank On-certified accounts to individuals returning to society after incarceration, and an effort by Honolulu-based Bank of Hawaii to offer savings accounts and basic check-cashing for participants in a work-release program for inmates at the Oahu and Maui Community Correctional Centers.

More than 70 million people in the U.S. have criminal records and often have difficulty accessing bank accounts and financial products, due to several factors, including a lack of valid identification or permanent address, prior problems managing a bank account and levies on bank accounts or court garnishment orders because of past-due debt, the foundation said.

“As an industry committed to financial inclusion, we need to understand and address the obstacles preventing justice-involved Americans from accessing the financial services they need,” said ABA Foundation Executive Director Corey Carlisle. “We hope these real-world case studies inspire other financial institutions to consider how they can assist justice-involved individuals within their own communities.”