I wonder if my monthly natural and organic coupon roundup is must-read material in prison. That might seem like an odd musing until you hear about Oregon State Correctional Institute’s Transitions Road to Success program. According to Yahoo Finance, in addition to teaching life skills like money management and resume writing, the program offers inmates the opportunity to learn how to use coupons to help them stick to their budgets once they’re out of prison. It looks like a smart addition to the prison’s life skills offerings.

The prisoners leave the correctional institute with a savvy knowledge of how to use coupons to their best advantage, thanks to a woman named Jeahara who has been teaching them the tips and tricks she’s learned over 50 years of couponing.

Inmates have the opportunity to learn basic couponing using food coupons and discounts cards. They’re also able to take an advance class from Jeahara that teaches them how to get great deals on things like electronics and patio sets. (Maybe I need to take her class.)

Inmates use the skills they learn in the classes once they’re out of prison, and they’ve been taught to look at coupon savings as a way to help them with the financial difficulties that often come with being an ex-convict.

One of the former prisoner said he looks at the $38.28 he saved with coupons at the grocery store as a free tank of gas. I tend to look at my coupon savings the same way. The $13.58 I saved earlier today at the store is roughly the equivalent of Friday night pizza.

The couponing program in the prison helps the inmates feel better prepared to re-enter society, and I can imagine it gives them a sense of accomplishment in an area of their lives that will never go away – buying food and other necessities.

I’m not an extreme couponer, but I do get a sense of satisfaction when I end up paying much less than the tag on the shelf reads because I planned, used coupons and kept an eye on the circulars to know what's on sale that I need. I wonder if these ex-prisoners who have spent years behind bars feel accomplished and get a kick out of buying two sticks of deodorant for less than the price of one when they use coupons and sales? I bet they do.

We hear a lot about how transitioning from prison is difficult and how many prisoners end up back in jail because of those difficulties. If a program like couponing can teach former inmates a life skill that will help with the practical side of living on a limited budget and give them a weekly sense of accomplishment when they shop, it’s a very useful program. Let’s hope it’s a life skill that other prisons begin to teach inmates who are transitioning out.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Couponing helps inmates transition to life after prison
In Portland, Oregon, prisoners transitioning to outside life are taught a money-saving life skill that helps them navigate life after incarceration.