Rep. Takano and Rep. Evans Introduce Bill to Ensure People Released From Prison Can Obtain Proper State ID Cards

October 22, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Penn.), introduced the Restoring Access Through Identification Act to ensure people who are released from prison would be able to obtain proper state ID cards by requiring the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to cover the costs associated with obtaining identification cards. Covering the cost of obtaining a state-issued ID prior to release helps remove some of the barriers to reintegrating back into the community. 

“We must give people leaving prison the tools they need for a successful re-entry into the community and obtaining a state-issued ID is an essential first step,” said Rep. Mark Takano. “Without an ID, it can be nearly impossible to secure housing, apply for a job, cash a check, or access public benefits to help make ends meet – that’s why the solutions proposed in this legislation matter. Commitment to reducing recidivism requires removing barriers to re-entry and giving people a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. I’d like to thank Rep. Evans for being a great partner on this issue.”

Rep. Dwight Evans said, “Everyone has an interest in seeing that returning citizens succeed instead of falling into recidivism. While the city of Philadelphia is fixing this problem for people released from its jails, we need to address this problem nationwide. If we ensure that people released from prison are able to obtain proper state ID cards, it will make a huge difference – in crimes prevented, in tax dollars saved, in lives changed for the better.”

Under current law, the Bureau of Prisons is required to help people in prison obtain identification documents prior to their release, but individuals must cover the costs associated with obtaining an official state ID. However, having limited access to funds creates an unnecessary barrier to obtaining IDs for incarcerated individuals. Research shows that the time immediately after release is critical to successful re-entry and preventing recidivism. Without an official state ID, people are unable to access life-sustaining essentials including housing, employment, and public benefits, which often require applicants to show proof of identity when applying.

The Restoring Access Through Identification Act would strengthen the current requirements for the Bureau of Prisons to assist people with obtaining IDs prior to their release and mandates that the Bureau of Prisons cover the cost. This is crucial for a successful re-entry into the community.

If BOP is unable to obtain an ID for an individual  prior to release, this bill would require them to provide a written statement to the individual explaining what steps they took to obtain the ID and why they were unable to, as well as any documents they were able to obtain. Currently, BOP is not required to issue a report on the number of individuals released without an ID and why an ID was not issued. This legislation would also establish an annual reporting requirement to improve transparency about effectiveness of pre-release ID programs and any remaining barriers to issuing IDs. 

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