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Money Smart News - Spring 2005

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Crime Prevention Through Financial Education: How Money Smart Partners Are Working To Make Communities Safer
Law enforcement and community development organizations increasingly are turning to financial education -- including the FDIC’s Money Smart program -- as part of their broader strategies to help reduce crime and revitalize neighborhoods.

“Financial education is not only the key to helping people enter the financial mainstream and achieve their economic dreams, it also is one answer to the poverty and despair that lead some individuals to turn to crime,” said Lee Bowman, the FDIC’s Chief of Community Affairs. “The FDIC takes great pride in knowing that our Money Smart financial education program is helping to motivate at-risk individuals to improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities.”

Here’s a look at how some public- and private-sector organizations, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED), are using financial education and Money Smart to make neighborhoods safer and more economically viable.

Early Intervention to Prevent Crime: Last October, the NCCED, the national trade association for more than 3,600 community development corporations, joined the Money Smart program to encourage its affiliates to teach how to save money and become more self-sufficient. Crime prevention is a major goal of NCCED’s financial education efforts, including helping people avoid being victimized by high-cost “predatory lenders.”

And on March 25, 2005, the Justice Department’s Community Capacity Development Office (CCDO) entered into a Money Smart partnership. CCDO oversees Justice’s Operation Weed and Seed, which aims to “weed out” violent crime and “seed in” social services and neighborhood revitalization efforts in more than 300 high-crime neighborhoods. The CCDO will be providing Money Smart classes free of charge to low-income people and families.

Tom Stokes, the FDIC’s Community Affairs Officer in Atlanta, noted that Money Smart and financial education can play a role in helping young people in particular steer away from crime. “It’s the notion of early intervention -- of involving them in productive activities where they can learn to save money for education or job goals,” he said. Stokes noted, for example, that the DeKalb County Juvenile Court in Atlanta area has started a program to teach Money Smart classes to at-risk youth there.

In another example, a New Mexico-based unit of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a nationwide, non-profit group that works with courts in matters involving abused and neglected children, has begun using Money Smart to teach money management to adults who, due to their financial troubles, may be inclined to turn their frustrations against their children. Several area banks are helping to fund the program.

Helping Inmates Reenter Society: Bowman said that about 650,000 prisoners were released in 2004, and recent reports from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) suggest that many of them will be re-arrested within a few years, sometimes because inmates didn’t receive the proper help or training before returning to society.

“When ex-offenders get out of prison they often have a hard time securing satisfactory employment and receiving basic financial services such as getting a loan or opening deposit accounts with financial institutions,” Bowman explained. “Even their right to a driver’s license is suspended. Educational and vocational training are keys to providing ex-offenders with some of the tools they will need to become productive citizens on the outside.” He concluded that “ensuring successful re-entry means both safer communities and the improved use of tax dollars.”

That’s why the FDIC was pleased to announce last July an agreement with the FBOP, part of the U.S. Justice Department, to use Money Smart to provide financial education to an estimated 10,000 inmates. “Basic financial money management techniques are vital tools for all segments of our society and can be especially instrumental to an inmate’s transition back into the community,” said Donna Gambrell, FDIC Deputy Director for the FDIC’s Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection.

In another example, Operation HOPE, a national organization that seeks to bring economic self-sufficiency to inner-city communities, joined with the Prisoners Aid Association (PAA), M&T Bank and other sponsors starting in April 2004 to provide Money Smart classes and financial counseling to PAA clients, both youths and adults, in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

Last Updated 4/01/2005

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