Students in front of Cook County jail
Students from left are: Timothy Mulholland, Sonali Patel, and Nicolette Marasa

During the month of April, the Heller College of Business undertook an initiative, inspired by Dean Asghar Sabbaghi and organized and led by Dr. Malcolm Fraser, to provide a three session Financial Literacy Training Program to inmates from the Mental Health Transition Center Program and the Thrive Program at the Cook County Jail.  The courses were derived from the FDIC Money Smart Program In Prison and included such topics as “Setting Financial Goals”; “Building a Budget”; “What to do with a Paycheck?”; “Getting a Good Credit Score;“ “Pay Day Loans, or What?”; “Starting a Business”; “Building a Budget”; “Using a Bank”; “Children and Their Expenses”; “Education and Paying For It”.

The program was a first for Roosevelt University.  However, judging from the client response it appears to be the first of many more to come in the future.  To be sure, this is truly a worthwhile endeavor as Lauren Kirchner, from Pacific Standard Magazine (founded in 2008 to report on issues of social and environmental justice), noted on September 2013 that “incarcerated men say that money troubles put them in prison—and avoiding money troubles will keep them out.” Also, a 2013 RAND report analyzed the effectiveness of educational and vocational programs in prison and found that they reduce recidivism and increase people’s rate of employment after their release. The study found that inmates who participate in education programs in jail were 43 percent less likely to return to prison, and they were also 13 percent more likely to find employment after their release.  To put it in dollar terms, the study found that “a $1 investment in prison education will reduce incarceration costs by $4 to $5 during the first three years post-release.” The study further notes that this estimate only accounts for direct costs to the state and not for any “financial or emotional costs to crime victims and costs to the criminal justice system as a whole. The greater cost to society of not educating and rehabilitating inmates prior to their release has yet to be calculated.”

When asked to volunteer for this program I had little idea of what to expect.  Dean Sabbaghi told us it would be one of the most rewarding things we could ever do. Not only was it rewarding to see that we were helping to make a difference and provide some hope and guidance to those who are forgotten and often despised by society at large, but also to get to know and participate with such a warm hearted and great group of students. Many thanks to those students who gave so unselfishly of their time and energy and volunteered to make this program a success. The list includes: Jada Flemming, Alina Haseeb, Darius Johannes, Shakira Minell Jones, Nicollette Marasa, Henry Miller, Sonali Sunil Patel, Christina Stacy Salesberry, Tyler Ward and Robert Willford Jr and Timothy Mulholland.  It is comforting to know that such people exist in the world today and right here at Roosevelt University. 

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