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Banking on a new start – advice on opening a bank account with a criminal record

Having recently opened a basic bank account, Eric sets out some tips to guide others through the process.




For anybody that’s ever been to prison, you’ll know that all the time you’re there you lose all sense of personal identity and become a number for the duration of your stay. In many ways this dehumanisation is part of the punishment where you end up feeling sub-human, a category a number of steps below a normal human being who has the normal freedoms to come and go as they please and do what they please within the restrictions of acceptable normal behaviour. A prisoner does not have these freedoms in the normal course of events and exists on an inferior level to his peers on the outside world regardless of his former social status.

Once I’d come to terms with the mental block that I had when I came out of prison I decided that the time had come to try and open a bank account so that I could start to move on with my life. I thought it would be a good idea to approach the bank that already knew my family and where my grown up daughter had a good banking relationship.

I realised that the best policy was to be totally honest with the bank and explain the problems that I’d had over the previous few years, and so I explained my situation to a young man on the telephone at my local branch and threw myself on his mercy! He was pretty positive and suggested that the best option was for me to make an appointment to go and see him with all my documentation and that he would process the account application on my behalf. I explained that I’d be happy with any type of account, even the most basic so that I could rebuild my banking history over a number of years. He agreed that could be the best bet.

And so the process began. I made the appointment and about ten days later presented myself at the bank with all the required documentation. The forms were duly completed and about a week later I received a call from the bank. Apparently a personal reference from a respected professional within the community would be of enormous help in convincing the bank that I deserved another chance. Fortunately, I’ve always had a good relationship with my doctor, so I made an appointment to see him and explained what I needed. It is to his eternal credit that having known me and my family for nearly 20 years he agreed to write the appropriate letter required by the bank.

Within a week the bank confirmed that they would be willing to offer me a basic bank account. Success! In spite of all my reservations and doubts at the beginning, I had by the power of positive thinking found a way to get a new bank account and a fresh start. My advice to all of you out there reading this is:

  • Be positive
  • Look for a bank that already has a relationship with a member of your immediate family
  • Look for support from any respected professional who has known you for a long time
  • Be completely honest and up front when you approach the bank about your recent history.

Everyone makes mistakes in life, some more than others and everyone deserves a second chance – the important thing is not to give up at the first hurdle. If you are determined to rebuild your life and put your past mistakes behind you, then you’ll find a way to overcome these problems and take the first steps back into life as a honest and hardworking member of your community.

By Eric (name changed to protect identity)


Comment from Unlock

We’ve done a lot of work to set up access to basic bank accounts for people in prison on release. Unfortunately, it’s still the case that people are released from prison without a bank account, so we have guidance on opening a bank account in the community. Although Eric was asked to provide a reference, this isn’t usually required, and we would suggest people follow Eric’s footsteps in opening a basic bank account – it’s the easiest one to open as it doesn’t come with any credit.


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on banking
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to disclosure on our online forum.

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