Rauner, lawmakers push for IDs for ex-offenders

Rauner, lawmakers push for IDs for ex-offenders

Gov. Bruce Rauner and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are supporting SB 3368, which would issue IDs to ex-offenders immediately upon release from prison, easing their transition to post-prison life and employment.

When some former offenders complete their sentences and exit prison, they’re missing one important thing: an ID. The lack of formal identification can be a stumbling block for ex-offenders, as providing an ID is essential in many aspects of life, such as starting a new job and signing an apartment lease.

Now, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican and Democratic lawmakers are renewing a push to issue IDs to ex-offenders immediately upon release from prison to remove obstacles to obtaining legal work and securing housing.

Senate Bill 3368, sponsored by St. Charles Republican state Sen. Karen McConnaughay and Chicago Democratic state Sen. Kwame Raoul, among others, would issue a state ID to an inmate without valid identification upon release from state prison or mandatory supervised release (parole). If the bill passes, an inmate who still has a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of address can receive a state ID immediately. If not, the ex-offender will receive a temporary ID from the correctional institution, which can be exchanged at a local Department of Motor Vehicles office for a state identification card within 90 days, at no cost to the ex-offender.

This sounds like a modest measure, but it could make a big difference. Many offenders no longer have their original identification after serving a prison term. Sometimes, the IDs they do have may have expired during their prison term. Others may not have had anyone to keep their birth certificates or other identifying information for them while they served their time. But federal law mandates that official identification is needed to find legal work in the United States. IDs are also necessary for signing leases, opening bank accounts, travel and other activities necessary for day-to-day life.

National data suggest as many as 60 to 75 percent of ex-offenders are still unemployed a year after release from prison. That’s part of the reason 48 percent of Illinois ex-offenders turn back to crime within three years of their release. But a Safer Foundation study found this dropped dramatically – to just 16 percent – for those who went through a training program and kept jobs for at least 30 days.

The fewer barriers for transition to post-prison life and employment, the more likely it is that ex-offenders will be able to stay out of crime and become productive members of their communities. Making sure ex-offenders have the identification they need to start their post-prison lives is a good step in this direction.

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