Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
In January 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published a report entitled “Justice-Involved Individuals and the Consumer Financial Marketplace” that reviewed the financial issues facing people and families who come in contact with the criminal justice system, according to a news release from the CFPB.
The report describes the burdensome fees and financial challenges families encounter at every stage of the criminal justice process, and the ways in which providers – often for-profit private companies – are leveraging a lack of consumer choice and their own market dominance to impose hefty fees at the expense of families.
“Many incarcerated individuals and their families pay exorbitant fees for basic financial services,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra stated in the news release. “Today’s report describes how private companies undermine the ability for individuals to successfully transition from incarceration.” Specifically, the report raises issues about:
- Burdensome fees: Many local, state, and federal governments impose criminal justice debt on the people who interact with it in the form of fines, fees, and restitution.
- Lack of consumer choice: For incarcerated people and their families, the choice of financial service providers is limited throughout the criminal justice system.
- Shifting financial burdens: Increasingly, governments are shifting the cost of incarceration to people who are incarcerated and their families, forcing individuals to pay for charges related to court operations, a court-appointed public defender, drug testing, prison library use, and probation supervision.
Contact with the criminal justice system is extremely common in the United States. In 2019, 2.1 million adults in America were in jail or prison, another 4.4 million were under community supervision such as probation, and 1 in 3 adults – or 77 million Americans – had a criminal record, according to the CFPB news release.
The burdens of the criminal justice system – and its financial impacts – fall most heavily on people of color, women, and people with lower incomes of all races and ethnicities. Surveys show women disproportionately shoulder the costs of staying in touch with loved ones in prison and paying court-related debt for family members.
The report is the CFPB’s first study of the criminal justice financial ecosystem. In 2021, the CFPB released a free printable and downloadable guide called “Focus on Reentry: Criminal Justice” that is designed to help frontline staff address the unique financial challenges of individuals involved in the criminal justice system.
The CFPB will use its tools and authorities to promote fairness for all people in the financial marketplace. The CFPB also invites people and families in contact with the criminal justice system to use the CFPB’s “Tell Your Story” tool to share positive or negative experiences they have had with the financial products and services.
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a service offering of ClearStar, a leading provider of Human Capital Integrity℠ technology-based services – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce” to help job applicants that have criminal records. To learn more, contact ESR today.
NOTE: Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a service offering of ClearStar – does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.
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