In December 2018 we published a briefing which looked at progress to date, understanding the problem and setting out what needs to be done.

For more latest news, you can:

  1. see the posts at the bottom of this page
  2. click here for a full list of news posts
  3. sign up our mailing list to receive updates by email
  4. follow the latest on Twitter using the hashtag #prisonerbankaccounts


The problem

People leaving prison can struggle to open a basic bank account on their return into the community.


What we think needs to change

We made a significant amount of progress through our Unlocking Banking project.

At the end of the project in 2014, we made a number of recommendations (see here).

In December 2018 we published a briefing which looked at progress to date, understanding the problem and setting out what needs to be done.


Latest news

See the bottom of this page for our latest posts about this issue.

You can also find below the latest from Twitter, using the hashtag #prisonerbankaccounts (although we cannot endorse what gets displayed here).


The importance of this work – A personal testimony

“I was in an open prison a couple of years ago. Having gone into prison with the loss of everything, I had no bank account, no ID, no anything. I was approached by staff one day and told about this wonderful scheme which would allow me to get started again. Very simply, the bank was Barclays and they had the most amazing very straightforward system for getting a bank account open. I would highly praise them, and Unlock for organising it, and for the way that is done. The account is opened, you have the bank card and details a couple of weeks later, and they are kept in your private property until you are released from prison. So you are actually ready to go the day you get out.

But to me the biggest things are the personal things. Self-esteem is a big thing and the bank account helped a great deal with that. Can you imagine what it is like not to have a bank account? Just for a moment. Not so much the practicalities but what it says about you. Why haven’t you got one? People give you funny looks, or you suspect they do. Getting a bank account in prison made me feel a great deal better about myself; that I belonged, and that reintegration was possible. Prison, for all the wrongs you have done to get you there, is a very lonely place, and that’s one of the problems when it comes to reintegrating when you get out. Anything that can be done to improve things there will help people.

Confidentiality is another thing: the way the accounts are set up. When you go to your branch when you get out, the staff don’t know you are an ex-offender. There is nothing on the system to say: this man is a former criminal; this account was set up in prison. That’s a fantastic feeling: to walk in to a branch as a normal citizen. One of the things that really hit me when I came out of prison, when I got onto the Jubilee line to head home, I was absolutely paranoid, that I had ‘prisoner’ stamped across my forehead. I kept looking round the carriage thinking ’they know’. And I’m not normally a paranoid person. A lot of people go through that. But when you walk into a bank branch and know they will treat you as a normal customer, and that rubber stamp on your forehead is no longer there, that is a fantastic feeling.

There are too many things, emotionally, that drag people back into prison. I know it sounds strange but I think bank accounts and having them set up for you, can help reduce re-offending. It’s one thing out of the way. You’ve got your benefits when you come out, you get paid when you find employment, it’s just one less box you have to tick. I think it’s a fantastic scheme and long may it continue, and be rolled out across the estate.”

Person with convictions, released from prison


Useful resources

Opening a bank account before release from prison – Briefing (December 2018)

Unlocking Banking – Impact Report – Summary (2014)

Unlocking Banking – Impact Report (2014)

Unlocking Banking Guidance – Guidance for prisons on running effective, efficient and secure access to banking services (December 2010)

Time is Money (2010)

Making Bank Accounts Accessible to Offenders – Post Project Review Report (with NOMS, June 2007)

Banking on a Fresh Start (Liverpool John Moores University, August 2008)

Still Banking on a Fresh Start (Liverpool John Moores University, November 2009)

Unlocking Credit Unions (2013)


For more information

  1. Project – We have a section on the Unlocking Banking project, that ended in 2014
  2. Practical self-help information  – We have guidance on bank accounts on our information site
  3. Personal experiences – We have posts relating to bank accounts on our online magazine, theRecord
  4. Discuss this issue – Share your views and experiences on our online forum
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