There’s a long list of reasons people end up behind bars.  While the exact number of reasons can’t be quantified, we do know the majority of individuals who’ve been incarcerated are from poor neighborhoods. When you come from underserved neighborhoods and aren’t taught financial fundamentals, you invariably get into bad habits, make serious mistakes, and often exacerbate the stress of everyday life. What you don’t know can hurt you. Teach someone financial literacy and they can change their life. That’s the gist of a program at the North Las Vegas Community Correctional Facility.

The Credit Union Connection

Jurea Williams, Community Services Specialist at the North Las Vegas Community Correctional Facility says, on average, offenders spend 28 days in the facility. “These are people who’ve committed misdemeanors, everything from jaywalking to petty larceny to domestic battery.” Experts may argue over causation or correlation but in most cases, offenders do lack fiscal understanding, and financial skills.

“No one ever really taught them how money works, how to manage it properly,” Williams says. That’s why she reached out to Emily Stevens, the Director of Community Engagement for SCE Credit Union.  “Emily has been a tremendous help. More offenders sign up for her financial literacy classes than any other subject. “Williams adds, “Financial literacy is key to breaking the bonds of generational poverty.”

The classes cover saving, budgeting and how to responsibly use credit. They cover financial planning and warn attendees about the exorbitant interest rates of payday loans. SCE Credit Union is the “go-to” institution, not just for teaching purposes but practical reasons. The Credit Union offers offenders multiple products, like checking and saving accounts.

The Case of Curtis Carroll

It’s sometimes difficult to understand how much impact a course on financial literacy can actually have. Jurea Williams points to Curtis Carroll an inmate at the infamous San Quentin prison in Northern California. Carroll is serving 54 years to life for murder. He was illiterate when he went to prison but learned to read and write at the age of 20. He became interested in the stock market, learned about Wall Street and began investing. “They give you a couple hundred dollars when you are released from prison,” Williams explains. “Curtis will have tens of thousands by the time he gets out.” But Carrol also feels he can help his fellow inmates by teaching them some basic money management so they can make better decisions upon release. Carroll teaches a financial literacy class with Zak Williams, a graduate of Columbia Business School and the son of the late actor and comedian Robin Williams. “Financial literacy,” says Jurea Williams, “is no joke.” Many studies have shown financial literacy programs for the short-term offender have long term benefits. SCE Credit Union is proud to partner with the Correctional Center to offer both money management lessons and the tools to apply them.