People facing incarceration rarely prepare financially for what lies ahead, and often emerge with financial scars that can last far longer than their time behind bars, says CreditCards.com in a series on money and prison. Each year, millions of people serve time in jail or prison in the U.S., leaving behind angry victims and broken families. Many are impoverished, and come out as broke as they went in.
Credit counselors, bankruptcy experts, criminal defense attorneys, and ex-convicts say steps can be taken to help inmates with debt minimize the hit on their finances, but few, if any, jails and prisons routinely counsel people before entering jail or prison about guarding their finances. “The prison was pretty much useless, as far as providing information such as that,” says Alice Gerard, a New York state journalist who served prison terms for trespassing on military bases during protests. “I set up a joint bank account for my dad and me. When I was in prison, he was able to write checks on the account to pay for my credit card bills.” Gerard’s planning helped her preserve her credit score. Inmates who care what happens to their bills often don’t know what options are available to them, such as finding someone they trust to open a joint bank account before they are jailed. The site offers tips on how inmates can protect their credit while serving time.