Debt to Society: Asset Poverty and Prisoner Reentry

Every year, millions of people exit American jails and prisons and attempt to reintegrate into society. Ex-offenders face many obstacles during the transition. Scholars contend that securing employment is central to a successful transition. A job that allows an ex-offender to earn an income above the poverty line is especially significant, recent studies have shown. Consequently, many prisoner reentry initiatives are focused on expanding employment opportunities for ex-offenders. However, the almost exclusive emphasis on employment as the measurement of economic well-being is short-sighted because it ignores the importance of financial education and asset ownership. Prisoner reentry programs should include an emphasis on financial education in addition to an emphasis on employment as a means of reducing recidivism rates and improving the economic well-being of the ex-offenders and receiving communities. The paper concludes with a discussion of policy implications.