A Class-Action Suit Targets Chase Debit Card Program for Prisoners
Chase faces a class-action suit filed in federal court this week that alleges the bank’s debit card program for prisoners locks them in a cycle of fees upon their release.
The lead plaintiff, 32-year-old Brett Sheib, says that while in prison, the money he earned from his work there, along with gifts from relatives and friends, were put on a debit card for use in the prison commissary. After he was released from a Florida federal prison camp in May 2014, however, he had less than $20 remaining on the card, an amount that he claims triggered a fee for not having enough money in his account. He also contends that the bank charged other fees, including for ATM use and not using the card enough, which constitute “unfair and unconscionable practices.” Chase, which announced plans to exit government and corporate prepaid sectors in 2014, did not provide immediate comment about the case.
This is not the first time cards issued to prisoners have come under fire. In late 2015, for instance, 18 U.S. Senators urged the CFPB to create protections for prisoners released from jail who receive prepaid cards when they exit incarceration. The lawmakers allege some of these cards carry unusual fees. Upon release, many former prisoners don’t have traditional bank accounts and often find it difficult to set up such accounts.
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