On Sept. 19, a unique partnership of public agencies and private partners hosted a "Financial Reality Fair" for individuals currently incarcerated at the Quehanna Boot Camp in Karthaus (Clearfield County). Forty-three community volunteers and Boot Camp staff used hands-on exercises to help inmates learn how to address a major barrier facing reentrants as they return home from prison: the lack of knowledge about and access to financial services.
A total of 15 stations were set up in the gymnasium. Inmates were given a form that recorded potential earnings based on their occupation and then were expected to visit each station to determine how much they would need to budget for each living expense. The first 13 stations addressed costs for housing, food, transportation, furniture, clothing, insurance, cell phone, credit union loans, TV/internet, entertainment, pets, nails/hair/spa and gym/fitness. The next to last station was a "Wheel of Reality" that the inmates were required to spin that would yield either unexpected income or unexpected expense. Based on their spin, they were expected to decide how best to apply any unexpected income or how best to pay any unexpected expense.
The final station allowed the inmates to sit down with a financial counselor and see how they did with budgeting their money. This was a good learning tool as all inmates successfully completing the Boot Camp Program will be returning to the community 6 months after starting the program.
Quehanna Boot Camp School Principal Kevin Fortuna worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities to orchestrate the event. Mr. Fortuna said, "The Financial Reality Fair was well received by the Quehanna Boot Camp population. It was a powerful reentry simulation that allowed participants to experience firsthand what occurs after an individual is released from prison and attempt to reintegrate back into society." He expressed his thanks to the Wolf administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation and all volunteers for making the event a success.