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Release Cards

All too often, prisons and jails partner with private companies to charge people released from custody for the privilege of accessing their own money. Until recently, when a facility wanted to return money to someone upon release — money that was in that person’s possession when arrested, money earned working in the facility, or money sent by friends and relatives — the facility would give cash or write a check. Now a growing number of prisons and jails are issuing pre-paid debit cards that eat up the meager balances with high fees.

We published a report on exploitative release cards and submitted it as a comment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urging the Bureau to regulate this industry. We've also drafted model legislation that states can use to regulate release cards and protect consumers. See our work below:


Report and resources



Model reform legislation:

  • Release card legislation for states
    Our sample legislation bans release card fees and requires that incarcerated people be given the option to have their funds returned by cash or check.

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