Court debts and lack of credit limit abilities to get driver’s licenses, find homes and get meaningful work. Ex-Inmates Struggle In A Banking System Not Made For Them #GotBitcoin
In 2013, Martize Tolbert walked out of prison and into a financial hole.
Mr. Tolbert was arrested on drug and weapon charges as a teenager, then bounced in and out of jail for more than a dozen years. When he was released for the last time, he owed some $12,000 in court fines and fees.
Four years later, he was working at a Charlottesville, Va., Jiffy Lube, making $9 an hour, barely enough for rent, food and supporting his son. The debt barred him from getting a driver’s license, but, with or without one, he had to drive. A Black man, he got pulled over often, he said, leading to more tickets, bigger for the lack of a license. The interest was compounding too. He tried to work out payment plans, but the total was only growing.
“It was all uphill just trying to get everything back in line from the mess I had created for myself,” said Mr. Tolbert, 40. “Everything was a struggle.”
Each year, more than 600,000 people deemed to have paid their debts to society are released from U.S. prisons, but the financial consequences can follow them long after. It can be hard for them to get checking accounts and nearly impossible to get loans. Some get out only to discover their identities were stolen. Many, like Mr. Tolbert, are deep in debt.
That all makes it hard for ex-inmates to get jobs, start businesses or find housing. In Florida and other states, court debts cost the right to vote. The problems trap all sorts of criminals, from small drug offenders to white-collar swindlers.
For Black men, who are nearly six times more likely than white men to be in prison, the financial aftermath is just another byproduct of a justice system already weighted against them. A 2019 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found people of color are disproportionately arrested for nonviolent crimes like loitering and disorderly conduct, and are generally sentenced more harshly, “which amplifies the impact of collateral consequences.”
Increasing evidence shows these repercussions push some people back into crime.
Programs to help former inmates have won widespread support. Big corporations including JPMorgan Chase & Co. have committed to hiring applicants with criminal records. But there has been little attention on how to get ex-prisoners into the mainstream financial system.
“It’s a missing piece,” said Dale Recinella, a former Wall Street lawyer who is now a chaplain on Florida’s death row.
Mr. Tolbert Helps His Mentee Ride A Bike. ‘It Was All Uphill Just Trying To Get Everything Back In Line From The Mess I Had Created For Myself,’ He Said About His Finances.
After a summer of national debate on systemic racism and criminal-justice reforms, the nation’s biggest banks have pledged billions of dollars of loans to and investments in minority communities. None have publicly mentioned getting former inmates banking products, but some are quietly discussing plans, advocates say.
The criminal-justice system creates a host of fines and fees for both the guilty and the merely accused. There are fees for obtaining a public defender, for getting an electronic monitoring device, for court administrative costs. Personal debts like medical bills and child support can also pile up for the incarcerated, who often have no real way to pay them.
Once they get out, just getting a bank account can be hard.
Many formerly incarcerated individuals don’t have government identification, the first step to getting an account. A system banks use for screening customers snags many others. Commonly referred to by the brand name ChexSystems, the system flags old overdrafts, bounced checks and accounts closed involuntarily, problems that are common among former inmates.
Most banks say they don’t outright reject applications for minor issues, but the flags can trigger more questions, including a background check. There is no banking standard on how to deal with criminal convictions, especially for nonfinancial crimes. Deciding who gets an account is largely left to branch managers. A 2017 study of men in Arkansas prisons found they were twice as likely to be unbanked as the state’s general male population.
In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Corrections found 73% of ex-inmates who had stayed out of prison for three years had an account with a bank or a credit union. A far smaller proportion, 39%, of those who went back to prison did. The department and the state’s banking regulator recently started working together to teach inmates about finances, believing it could help keep more out of prison.
Many of the formerly incarcerated have bad credit scores, a big hurdle in getting a loan, an apartment, even a job.
Criminal histories don’t show up on credit scores, but scores fall from lack of debt use and can disappear after seven years, which means many people leave prison with no score at all.
Convictions reduce a credit score by about 50 points on average, according to one study. With less access to credit, those former inmates were nearly 20 percentage points more likely to go back to jail, the study concluded.
Mr. Tolbert Is Now Working At The Fountain Fund, Trying To Help It Reach More Former Inmates.
Fixing these problems is thorny.
Take identity theft. Inmates are particularly vulnerable, with their names, birthdays and other personal information widely available. They can’t get mobile or email alerts about possible fraud. Often, a theft is by someone close to them, such as a family member sticking their name on a utility bill they don’t intend to pay.
While inmates can request a credit report by mail, the Credit Builders Alliance, a nonprofit network, says that could backfire by changing their last-known address to a prison.
The CBA, other financial groups and lenders have discussed an automatic credit freeze triggered by a prison sentence, but there is no agreement it would even work.
Aaron Smith was serving 12 years for his role in a Chicago heroin ring when someone received tax refunds in his name. Calling the Internal Revenue Service required hours of waiting on hold, a frustration prisoners aren’t normally allowed. Mr. Smith, 39, succeeded only because he was on good terms with counselors.
“That’s not really conducive to life in prison,” Mr. Smith said. He now hosts a podcast about entrepreneurs after prison—“Escaping the Odds”—and is advising a group working to start a credit union for the formerly incarcerated.
Danny Ballesteros, Right, Celebrated Graduating From Rocky Mountain Finance’s Training In 2019 With A Mentor.
The lenders most willing to work with ex-convicts tend to be small and relatively unknown. Their reach is limited, both in terms of loans they can fund and their local presence. Many former inmates don’t even know they are an option. Yet their results show how access to credit can help redeem all parts of a person’s life.
In Colorado, Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute funds and trains low-income entrepreneurs. When it accepted Danny Ballesteros into its boot camp in the summer of 2019, it was a lifeline just as he feared he was losing his auto shop.
Mr. Ballesteros, 42, had been working by flashlight, unable to afford new lights, when the program gave him a $2,500 loan and training on managing employees and customer scheduling.
“Typically you can’t get advice from people who don’t run their own business,” said Mr. Ballesteros, who had served time for drugs and wrecked his credit. “But the guys who did own a business, their lives weren’t like mine.”
The group that helped Mr. Tolbert, the Virginia man, with his $12,000 in court debt works solely with former inmates.
Mr. Tolbert was arrested in 2000. He was 19 and, he said, it was the first time he had been in trouble. He served six years, then was twice sent back for probation violations.
When he got out the third time, he had no real plan for how to pay off his court debt. When his mother died a few years later, something in him changed.
A mentor sent him to the Fountain Fund in 2017. He was skeptical: The local nonprofit operated from a small office at the end of an alley. But he got a $3,200 loan and used it to pay off enough of his debt to get his driver’s license three months later.
The nonprofit eventually hired him to counsel current and former inmates on business plans. He has helped it raise $500,000 for more loans.
Mr. Tolbert is working to expand the Fountain Fund because it can’t handle the volume of people seeking loans. When he looked across the country for a model to follow, he came up empty.
“There’s no one out there,” he said.
Mr. Robinson Heard About The Fountain Fund When He Was Asked To Feature It On His Radio Show. He Then Tapped It Himself.
Last winter, Mr. Tolbert approached Troy Robinson about getting the Fountain Fund onto Mr. Robinson’s local radio show in Charlottesville. Mr. Robinson, 46, wanted to check it out himself.
Mr. Robinson was 18, a freshly graduated high-school football star, when he was arrested with a small amount of drugs in 1992. After appeals, Mr. Robinson served 18 months.
Struggling to find well-paying jobs, he decided to work for himself. He opened a barber shop and launched a limo service. He and his wife, Maxicelia, bought a food cart. The businesses did well, but Mr. Robinson couldn’t find anyone to lend to him.
“The guy would say everything looks really good until he’d ask you if you have ever been in trouble,” Mr. Robinson said. “Then they start fidgeting with their papers, and you know you aren’t getting a loan.”
The Fountain Fund looked over Mr. Robinson’s business plans and pushed for details. When the coronavirus hit, Mr. Robinson served first responders. The Fountain Fund gave him an $18,000 loan, its biggest, for a mobile kitchen trailer.
Mr. Robinson Secured A Loan From The Fountain Fund To Buy A Mobile Kitchen Trailer For Order Up!, His Food-Cart Business.
Now, Mr. Robinson is starting a Charlottesville chapter of World Central Kitchen, a disaster-relief organization, and franchising his food carts. His businesses, he thinks, will soon be able to survive beyond him.
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A Case For Bitcoin As Recession Hedge In A Diversified Investment Portfolio (#GotBitcoin?)
SEC Guidance Gives Ammo To Lawsuit Claiming XRP Is Unregistered Security (#GotBitcoin?)
15 Countries To Develop Crypto Transaction Tracking System: Report (#GotBitcoin?)
US Department Of Commerce Offering 6-Figure Salary To Crypto Expert (#GotBitcoin?)
Mastercard Is Building A Team To Develop Crypto, Wallet Projects (#GotBitcoin?)
Canadian Bitcoin Educator Scams The Scammer And Donates Proceeds (#GotBitcoin?)
Amazon Wants To Build A Blockchain For Ads, New Job Listing Shows (#GotBitcoin?)
Shield Bitcoin Wallets From Theft Via Time Delay (#GotBitcoin?)
Blockstream Launches Bitcoin Mining Farm With Fidelity As Early Customer (#GotBitcoin?)
Commerzbank Tests Blockchain Machine To Machine Payments With Daimler (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Historical Returns Look Very Attractive As Online Banks Lower Payouts On Savings Accounts (#GotBitcoin?)
Man Takes Bitcoin Miner Seller To Tribunal Over Electricity Bill And Wins (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Computing Power Sets Record As Over 100K New Miners Go Online (#GotBitcoin?)
Walmart Coin And Libra Perform Major Public Relations For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Judge Says Buying Bitcoin Via Credit Card Not Necessarily A Cash Advance (#GotBitcoin?)
Poll: If You’re A Stockowner Or Crypto-Currency Holder. What Will You Do When The Recession Comes?
1 In 5 Crypto Holders Are Women, New Report Reveals (#GotBitcoin?)
Beating Bakkt, Ledgerx Is First To Launch ‘Physical’ Bitcoin Futures In Us (#GotBitcoin?)
Facebook Warns Investors That Libra Stablecoin May Never Launch (#GotBitcoin?)
Government Money Printing Is ‘Rocket Fuel’ For Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin-Friendly Square Cash App Stock Price Up 56% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
Safeway Shoppers Can Now Get Bitcoin Back As Change At 894 US Stores (#GotBitcoin?)
TD Ameritrade CEO: There’s ‘Heightened Interest Again’ With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Venezuela Sets New Bitcoin Volume Record Thanks To 10,000,000% Inflation (#GotBitcoin?)
Newegg Adds Bitcoin Payment Option To 73 More Countries (#GotBitcoin?)
China’s Schizophrenic Relationship With Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
More Companies Build Products Around Crypto Hardware Wallets (#GotBitcoin?)
Bakkt Is Scheduled To Start Testing Its Bitcoin Futures Contracts Today (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Network Now 8 Times More Powerful Than It Was At $20K Price (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Exchange BitMEX Under Investigation By CFTC: Bloomberg (#GotBitcoin?)
“Bitcoin An ‘Unstoppable Force,” Says US Congressman At Crypto Hearing (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Network Is Moving $3 Billion Daily, Up 210% Since April (#GotBitcoin?)
Cryptocurrency Startups Get Partial Green Light From Washington
Fundstrat’s Tom Lee: Bitcoin Pullback Is Healthy, Fewer Searches Аre Good (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Lightning Nodes Are Snatching Funds From Bad Actors (#GotBitcoin?)
The Provident Bank Now Offers Deposit Services For Crypto-Related Entities (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Could Help Stop News Censorship From Space (#GotBitcoin?)
US Sanctions On Iran Crypto Mining — Inevitable Or Impossible? (#GotBitcoin?)
US Lawmaker Reintroduces ‘Safe Harbor’ Crypto Tax Bill In Congress (#GotBitcoin?)
EU Central Bank Won’t Add Bitcoin To Reserves — Says It’s Not A Currency (#GotBitcoin?)
The Miami Dolphins Now Accept Bitcoin And Litecoin Crypt-Currency Payments (#GotBitcoin?)
Trump Bashes Bitcoin And Alt-Right Is Mad As Hell (#GotBitcoin?)
Goldman Sachs Ramps Up Development Of New Secret Crypto Project (#GotBitcoin?)
Blockchain And AI Bond, Explained (#GotBitcoin?)
Grayscale Bitcoin Trust Outperformed Indexes In First Half Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
XRP Is The Worst Performing Major Crypto Of 2019 (GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Back Near $12K As BTC Shorters Lose $44 Million In One Morning (#GotBitcoin?)
As Deutsche Bank Axes 18K Jobs, Bitcoin Offers A ‘Plan ฿”: VanEck Exec (#GotBitcoin?)
Argentina Drives Global LocalBitcoins Volume To Highest Since November (#GotBitcoin?)
‘I Would Buy’ Bitcoin If Growth Continues — Investment Legend Mobius (#GotBitcoin?)
Lawmakers Push For New Bitcoin Rules (#GotBitcoin?)
Facebook’s Libra Is Bad For African Americans (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Firm Charity Announces Alliance To Support Feminine Health (#GotBitcoin?)
Canadian Startup Wants To Upgrade Millions Of ATMs To Sell Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Trump Says US ‘Should Match’ China’s Money Printing Game (#GotBitcoin?)
Casa Launches Lightning Node Mobile App For Bitcoin Newbies (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Rally Fuels Market In Crypto Derivatives (#GotBitcoin?)
World’s First Zero-Fiat ‘Bitcoin Bond’ Now Available On Bloomberg Terminal (#GotBitcoin?)
Buying Bitcoin Has Been Profitable 98.2% Of The Days Since Creation (#GotBitcoin?)
Another Crypto Exchange Receives License For Crypto Futures
From ‘Ponzi’ To ‘We’re Working On It’ — BIS Chief Reverses Stance On Crypto (#GotBitcoin?)
These Are The Cities Googling ‘Bitcoin’ As Interest Hits 17-Month High (#GotBitcoin?)
Venezuelan Explains How Bitcoin Saves His Family (#GotBitcoin?)
Quantum Computing Vs. Blockchain: Impact On Cryptography
This Fund Is Riding Bitcoin To Top (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Surge Leaves Smaller Digital Currencies In The Dust (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Exchange Hits $1 Trillion In Trading Volume (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Breaks $200 Billion Market Cap For The First Time In 17 Months (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Make State Tax Payments In Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Religious Organizations Make Ideal Places To Mine Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Goldman Sacs And JP Morgan Chase Finally Concede To Crypto-Currencies (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Heading For Fifth Month Of Gains Despite Price Correction (#GotBitcoin?)
Breez Reveals Lightning-Powered Bitcoin Payments App For IPhone (#GotBitcoin?)
Big Four Auditing Firm PwC Releases Cryptocurrency Auditing Software (#GotBitcoin?)
Amazon-Owned Twitch Quietly Brings Back Bitcoin Payments (#GotBitcoin?)
JPMorgan Will Pilot ‘JPM Coin’ Stablecoin By End Of 2019: Report (#GotBitcoin?)
Is There A Big Short In Bitcoin? (#GotBitcoin?)
Coinbase Hit With Outage As Bitcoin Price Drops $1.8K In 15 Minutes
Samourai Wallet Releases Privacy-Enhancing CoinJoin Feature (#GotBitcoin?)
There Are Now More Than 5,000 Bitcoin ATMs Around The World (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Get Bitcoin Rewards When Booking At Hotels.Com (#GotBitcoin?)
North America’s Largest Solar Bitcoin Mining Farm Coming To California (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin On Track For Best Second Quarter Price Gain On Record (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Hash Rate Climbs To New Record High Boosting Network Security (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Exceeds 1Million Active Addresses While Coinbase Custodies $1.3B In Assets
Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin’s Lightning Comes To Apple Smartwatches With New App (#GotBitcoin?)
E-Trade To Offer Crypto Trading (#GotBitcoin)
US Rapper Lil Pump Starts Accepting Bitcoin Via Lightning Network On Merchandise Store (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitfinex Used Tether Reserves To Mask Missing $850 Million, Probe Finds (#GotBitcoin?)
21-Year-Old Jailed For 10 Years After Stealing $7.5M In Crypto By Hacking Cell Phones (#GotBitcoin?)
You Can Now Shop With Bitcoin On Amazon Using Lightning (#GotBitcoin?)
Afghanistan, Tunisia To Issue Sovereign Bonds In Bitcoin, Bright Future Ahead (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Faithful Say Blockchain Can Remake Securities Market Machinery (#GotBitcoin?)
Disney In Talks To Acquire The Owner Of Crypto Exchanges Bitstamp And Korbit (#GotBitcoin?)
Crypto Exchange Gemini Rolls Out Native Wallet Support For SegWit Bitcoin Addresses (#GotBitcoin?)
Binance Delists Bitcoin SV, CEO Calls Craig Wright A ‘Fraud’ (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Outperforms Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, Grows Whopping 37% In 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
Bitcoin Passes A Milestone 400 Million Transactions (#GotBitcoin?)
Future Returns: Why Investors May Want To Consider Bitcoin Now (#GotBitcoin?)
Next Bitcoin Core Release To Finally Connect Hardware Wallets To Full Nodes (#GotBitcoin?)
Major Crypto-Currency Exchanges Use Lloyd’s Of London, A Registered Insurance Broker (#GotBitcoin?)
How Bitcoin Can Prevent Fraud And Chargebacks (#GotBitcoin?)
Why Bitcoin’s Price Suddenly Surged Back $5K (#GotBitcoin?)
Zebpay Becomes First Exchange To Add Lightning Payments For All Users (#GotBitcoin?)
Coinbase’s New Customer Incentive: Interest Payments, With A Crypto Twist (#GotBitcoin?)
The Best Bitcoin Debit (Cashback) Cards Of 2019 (#GotBitcoin?)
Real Estate Brokerages Now Accepting Bitcoin (#GotBitcoin?)
Ernst & Young Introduces Tax Tool For Reporting Cryptocurrencies (#GotBitcoin?)
How Will Bitcoin Behave During A Recession? (#GotBitcoin?)
Investors Run Out of Options As Bitcoin, Stocks, Bonds, Oil Cave To Recession Fears (#GotBitcoin?)
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