Credit unions in Pennsylvania are partnering with state agencies on a partnership that aims to reduce inmate recidivism through financial education.

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation, along with the state’s Department of Corrections, the Department of Banking and Securities, and the Board of Probation and Parole, and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency have unveiled a plan to hold five simultaneous “Financial Reality Fairs” on October 14 in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie, and Reading.

The initiative was announced during a gathering at the Harrisburg, Pa. headquarters of the $5 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union that included representatives from those groups.

“Every year more than 20,000 people are released from our state prisons to return to their communities,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement. “One of the core challenges they face is a lack of knowledge about and access to financial services including bank accounts, credit reports, insurance and budgeting.”

Wolf added that to help ex-cons succeed in the community and be “less likely to return to prison, it is vital that they understand these basics of money management. This program will guide re-entrants through banking basics, establishing credit, avoiding predatory lending, and will make sure these individuals have the financial tools necessary to achieve a self-sustaining independence.”

Announcement of Financial Reality Fairs in Pennsylvania for parolees, with Penn CU Assc and various state agencies.

The Financial Reality Fair is described as an “interactive financial literacy tool,” providing a “hands-on experience for re-entrants to identify post-release work options and starting pay expectations.”

Participants in the fair will complete a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary, while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing and food, as well as discuss unexpected and emergency expenditures.

Volunteers from credit unions, community groups, and state agencies will provide participants with financial counseling.

Patrick Conway, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania CU Association, praised local credit unions who have volunteered to deliver the program as well as the state agencies who are partnering with us to deliver it.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Governor Wolf and several state agencies to bring our unique financial education program, Financial Reality Fairs, to Corrections’ re-entrants across Pennsylvania,” said Conway. “I would like to thank our credit unions who have volunteered to deliver the program as well as the state agencies who are partnering with us to deliver it. Next Saturday will be a very worthwhile day for everyone who participates.”

According to a 2013 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, about 60 percent of released inmates are rearrested or reincarcerated) within three years of release from prison. However, overall recidivism rates have been stable over the prior ten years

The program is billed as being one of the first of its kind in the country, and earlier this year CU Journal reported on a similar initiative in Michigan in which banks and credit unions have partnered with parolees to help them gain access to financial services.