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Credit unions, state teach hundreds of former inmates about budgeting

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Harrisburg Community Corrections Center resident Keith Wilson, right, discusses cellphone costs with a volunteer during a March 4 financial reality fair at the Capitol Region Careerlink in Harrisburg.
Harrisburg Community Corrections Center resident Keith Wilson, right, discusses cellphone costs with a volunteer during a March 4 financial reality fair at the Capitol Region Careerlink in Harrisburg. - (Photo / )

Several state agencies and a bevy of Pennsylvania credit unions partnered this weekend to hold five simultaneous financial reality fairs for people getting ready to re-enter society after serving prison sentences.

The fairs aim to teach participants how to manage their money by putting them through a series of real-world scenarios, such as deciding whether to buy a car or take public transportation, and showing them how to make the most of theoretical earnings.

The five fairs on Saturday catered to people getting ready to re-enter communities around Harrisburg, Reading, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie. Each location had about 150 participants.

The event was a collaboration between the state departments of Corrections and Banking and Securities, as well as the state board of probation and parole and private-sector volunteers from member organizations of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, among others.

"This is government that works - breaking down barriers, drawing on expertise and experience from different agencies and perspectives, and working together to protect Pennsylvanians," Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin Wiessmann said in a news release. "I hope that other states look at our efforts and successes as a model for how they can create partnerships and develop similar programs to help their citizens."

The fairs, plans for which were announced in August, follow a pilot event that the organizations held in Harrisburg earlier this year. The participating groups plan to organize more programs like it in the future.

The Department of Banking and Securities also recently started offering budgeting classes within the prison system, with hopes that inmates will be less likely to re-offend if they know how to manage their money.

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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