Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss – Portland Chapter
Stored Value Cards, Inc., doing business as Numi Financial, targets county jails. In an August 2016 article, Arun Gupta noted that Numi contracts with counties to provide debit cards to return inmates’ money upon their release. (https://www.thenation.com/article/the-financial-firm-that-cornered-the-market-on-jails/)
In 2013, over 11 million people were released from county jails, making it a preferred market. The problem is that over 80 percent of the Numi debit cards end up paying onerous fees. The article states, “The terms for the card used in Multnomah County (Oregon) lists 11 possible fees—the $5.95 monthly fee, a $2.95 fee for ATM withdrawals, $0.95 for a declined transaction, $1 to check the balance, and $9.95 to have the balance refunded by check.”
An estimated 30 percent of the debit cards holding released prisoners’ own money are never used and are completely consumed by the fees. Inmates who may be deported by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suffer additional problems with the cards due to English-only written directions and customer service and higher international fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Electronic Funds Transfer Act do not cover this type of cards.
Numi Financial and similar companies should also be targeted by campaigns against for-profit prisons and the exploitive jail telephone systems.