The power – and importance – of second chances

Published on Aug 16, 2023

The power – and importance – of second chances


The New Jersey Reentry Corporation (NJRC) believes in access; access to job training, educational and financial resources, and employment to effectively reintegrate and rehabilitate individuals who have been previously incarcerated.

This access is critical, because without it, these individuals can face several barriers that make their reintegration into the workforce and society that much more challenging.

To support NJRC’s mission, Valley Bank began offering banking services like Valley’s Journey Checking Account to help these unbanked and underbanked individuals have access to secure financial products. Under the direction of Joanne Lopez and Dhana Miele, Market Managers in Valley’s New Jersey market, Valley was able to help NJRC’s clients establish a relationship with a mainstream bank – something that would prove to be essential for successful reintegration.

The Valley Journey Checking Account makes the introduction to mainstream banking accessible and approachable with a low monthly fee* and a $250,000 federal deposit insurance per depositor per each account ownership category, along with the ability to pay bills and make purchases.

Furthermore, the account is a necessary first step that allows these individuals to build savings, access credit, and achieve financial stability. Because of these features, the Journey Checking account is verified by the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund as meeting the Bank On National Standards, which strives to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable financial products and services.

“Being able to open a bank account can make a tremendous difference in someone’s life because it’s often the first step towards establishing financial stability,” said Joanne Lopez. “One of our clients was brought to tears when they opened their first credit card because it meant they were one step closer to achieving that dream. I’m so thankful to bring these resources to the clients at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation because I can see firsthand the difference it makes.”

According to the CFE, unbanked and underbanked individuals who don’t have a standard or basic checking account are at greater risk of spending money on unnecessary fees or alternative financial services like cash checkers, payday lenders, and pawn shops. Additionally, these individuals can have a difficult time reducing debt, improving credit scores, and building assets – and are more likely to become victims of crime without a secure place to deposit their money.

In short, these checking accounts can make a significant difference for this population, as evidenced by the testimonials of NJRC clients who have benefited from Valley’s accounts and other banking services:

“I’m just coming home from being incarcerated for 16 years. With their help, I now have a checking account, a credit card, and advice {on} how to use the credit card {and} checking account. It’s absolutely a blessing.”

“I am an Ambassador for {the} New Jersey Reentry Corporation, where I met this very compassionate young lady named Joanne Lopez. We talked about banking — something that I had no knowledge of. She set me down and gave me pointers and her business card. I do not have a big account, but I do have a savings account and a checking account. I trust her so much I even moved my business account to Valley Bank. Joanne has {introduced me} to a lot of information that I did not know! I know Joanne Lopez is a great help to marginalized people in our community, and she moved mountains for us to get that first account.”

“As a person who has spent 20 years away from society, I have had the experience of being embraced by strangers who showed empathy for my life’s struggles of becoming acclimated back into society. Those strangers became my financial advisors, my support system, a resource to restore my dignity and proper place back in my family structure as well as {in} society.”

To date, nearly 200 bank accounts have been opened at Valley by NJRC clients, providing a needed opportunity for financial stability and independence. Thanks to the efforts of Joanne and Dhana, we hope that number continues to grow.

To learn more about the Valley Journey Checking Account, please visit*

To learn more about the New Jersey Reentry Corporation and their work, please visit

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