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Booker, Colleagues to CFPB: Protect Formerly Incarcerated from Predatory Prison Prepaid Cards

Senators say: Any reductions to the wages and account balances of formerly incarcerated people on these cards could harm successful reentry efforts.

November 3, 2015

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) today led a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) urging them to address the predatory behavior in the prepaid card market that impacts formerly incarcerated people. Sen. Booker was joined by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Dick Durbin(D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Al Franken (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Edward Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).


“Today, some firms charge high fees on prison prepaid cards that create significant barriers to reentry for formerly incarcerated people. Most corrections agencies that report using prepaid cards also report that fees are imposed on cardholders, including unusual fees such as weekly maintenance fees…. As the Bureau moves forward with finalizing a proposed rule to strengthen protections for prepaid products, we urge you to take a second look at the impact of prepaid cards in the unique prison context. Prison release cards are a critical tool for people leaving prisons to transfer their earned wages and/or commissary account balances to a prepaid card. Any reductions to the wages and account balances of formerly incarcerated people could harm their ability to successfully reenter society,” the Senators wrote.



 “Given the limited review of prison release cards in the CFPB’s 2014 study of prepaid account agreements, the potential for financial abuse in the vendor-correctional facility relationships, and the distinctive vulnerability of men and women leaving prison, we request that the CFPB address issues surrounding prison release cards under the current rulemaking process for prepaid cards. Additionally, we request that the CFPB take a targeted look at a prison release card agreements and compare the provisions of these agreements to agreements in the broader prepaid card marketplace,” the Senators concluded.