Initiative : Minitrusts
Small revolving individual funds from $100 to $10,000 for individuals unable to manage their finances
Because Access2online is in the business of transitioning working prison inmates into working parolees, we're aware of the obstacles faced by paroles new to the outside. Dropped off at a bus stop with little more than a warning not to come back, this is a prescription for failure, an invitation to returning to crime and contributing to a disgraceful nationwide recidivism rate of 75%.
We do recognize the charities and governmental agencies providing stop gap assistance such as food and shelter to parolees, but we're interested in the next level, the ability of a parolee to become an employed, contributing member of their community. For this, they will need a secure apartment, car, computer, and such as we own and take for granted, that is, they'll need a release fund.
However, an inmate released without financial management experience should not be handed a few thousand dollars upon release. That is asking for trouble.
As a business employing inmates and parolees, state and federal laws prohibit us from gifting money to inmates. Getting involved in the personal finances of parolees, beyond paying them for the work they do for us, would run afoul of other laws. This has us looking for team mates to become the trustee of such release funds.
How It Would Work
The Social Security Administration's Representative Payee Program is a good starting point. When mom gets too old to manage her money, her child can establish a Representative Payee checking account with any bank into which the Social Security Administration deposits her monthly checks. This trustee child can spend such deposits only in restricted ways, such as food and rent for mom.
For an inmate, that means she can present a bill from a landlord, car dealer, psychiatrist, or school to the trustee for payment, but not loan requests from relatives or morally challenged friends, or recreational drug purchases.
Besides Access2online contributing to such a minitrust fund over the years that an inmate works for us, we see inmate friends and family doing so as well, all because this is preferable to handing all that money to a brand new parolee. We see even crowd-funding options for such a minitrust fund.
Note that a trustee earns a fee for managing such a release fund, so we're not looking for donations of time or money. Whereas a traditional bank trust account can earn significant returns for its bank, it does this on large transactions on large accounts, with a correspondingly large risk. The proposed minitrust would involve small transactions on small accounts with small risk.
Key to its effective operations would be automation. From the online signup form, the use of identical minitrust instruments (aka stipulations or instructions), restrictive terms beneficiaries must accept, to policies and procedures developed so even a junior trustee can administer the minitrusts, this can turn into a well-oiled financial engine that can earn over hundreds of small accounts more than what conventional bank trusts earn over one big account.
We would be happy to provide the online automation for this, the application forms and online management system, since that is what our holding corporation produces for a living.
One doesn't need a leap of imagination to see that the minitrust accounts we envision apply to more than parolees. Any homeless person, which parolees easily become, could use the same approach.
We have good reason not to give cash to a wino or to a street person with a mental disability. Better for them would be to know that at the other end of a phone call is a person willing to pay for something that would do them good.
Other prospective markets may include rudderless young adults unwilling to get a job and join the system where loving parents wish to be extricated from the emotionally charged support requests and put payment decisions into the hands of a trustee with clear instructions focused on improving the young adult's lifestyle.
Until minitrusts exist, their application potential remains undeveloped.
The United States incarcerates 2.1 million Americans, far more than any other country in the world, with just under 1 million parolees, sadly a growth market. Counting the homeless is more difficult, but over half a million people were living on the streets, in cars, in homeless shelters, or in subsidized transitional housing during a one-night national survey in January of 2017.
Rather than delve into the obvious, suffice it to say that homelessness and parolee recidivism is a national problem and we all wish for an improvement as an important priority.
Marketing direct to prospective clients would not be effective. Better is to approach organizations already working the problem of homelessness and parolee recidivism and offer a new tool to help the cause.
Just as effective would be to present the media with human interest stories of the downtrodden with happy endings. Picture a veteran with PTSD moving out of a cardboard box with the minitrust mentioned as what collected the crowd-funding contributions that kicked off the transition. Contrast parolees building their communities instead of attacking them. The optics would be good because the results truly would be good.
All this could be the result of taking the initiative to launch a new type of minitrust that covers its costs and provides an important benefit to parolees and the homeless that only this minitrust can deliver.
We've tried so many things, and the streets are still crowded with human suffering. Is it time to try something new?