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Building Financial Capability at Dakota County Jail

By Sarah Louise Butler, Dakota County Extension Educator, Financial Empowerment

Jail inmates, also called “clients,” face numerous challenges when they try to re-enter society and achieve financial stability. Dakota County Jail clients have specific personal finance needs due to their criminal history.

Clients at the Dakota County Jail in Hastings are getting that help provided through my role as an Extension educator with the Community Mentorship Program, a financial education initiative offered by Family Development in partnership with the Minnesota Council for Economic Education.

Last year, 33 clients at the Dakota County Jail completed all eight units of a curriculum, Financial Literacy and Tenant Education (FLiTE), developed by AmeriCorps VISTA staff member James Lodovic with guidance from myself. Specifically, Extension’s RentWise curriculum was used to develop the tenant education. Workbooks for the course were developed, and together we taught the series of group classes in the jail. Topics included setting financial goals, understanding and improving credit, budgeting and saving, tackling debt, finding and keeping rental housing — and more.

The hope is that the clients who completed the series of classes will be better equipped to make better informed financial decision as they transition to life after release. Feedback from clients who participated was overwhelmingly positive, and many requested more classes.

Because of the positive reception, this series of classes will continue to be offered at the Dakota County Jail in 2016, with a goal of completing five cohorts. In addition, individual credit report reviews have been added to the menu of financial services that will be offered in 2016. I will continue my partnership with Dakota County Jail by conducting these credit report reviews with clients, as well as providing financial coaching.

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