Bill to give ex-offenders access to state-issued IDs goes to Rauner’s desk

Bill to give ex-offenders access to state-issued IDs goes to Rauner’s desk

Senate Bill 3368 will ensure former inmates leaving Illinois’ prisons have state-issued identification, which will assist their re-entry into their communities and make it easier for them to apply for jobs or housing.

Ex-offenders in Illinois may soon be able to receive state-issued identification cards after completing their sentences or being released on parole.

This is a small but important step, as government IDs are necessary for anyone looking for a job or a place to live. Obtaining these essentials makes it much more likely that an ex-offender won’t end up back behind bars.

Nearly half of Illinois’ ex-offenders return to prison within three years of their release – often because it’s hard for them to find work. But the Safer Foundation reported in 2008 that just 18 percent of its clients who found work ended up incarcerated again within three years of release.

The General Assembly sent Gov. Bruce Rauner the ID bill Dec. 7. This legislation, Senate Bill 3368, was part of a package of three bills aimed at improving re-entry success for ex-offenders, which the governor and members of the General Assembly presented in March.

On Aug. 19, Rauner signed into law Senate Bill 3164, which discourages judges from sentencing low-level offenders to prison if other ways to address the crime, such as probation, would suffice.

Senate Bill 3294, which would allow the Illinois Department of Corrections to set conditions of parole and mandatory supervised release, including using home detention and electronic monitoring options for some offenders, stalled in April.

One of Rauner’s first public goals upon taking office was to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025. Re-entry reforms such as SB 3368 are important first steps, but much more must happen for Illinois to realize this goal.

Politicians should embrace sealing reform, which gives ex-offenders the chance to apply to have their records sealed, making finding a good job much likelier.

Policymakers should also welcome alternatives to incarceration when they make sense. Restorative justice is one such program, which helps victims as well as offenders by bringing both parties together (if they consent) to come up with a plan to compensate the victim for the damage done to him or her by the offender.

Another important alternative is Adult Redeploy, a state initiative that helps counties invest resources in alternatives to incarceration, focusing on solutions that help offenders quit repeating the same mistake over and over – while also saving taxpayers money. The program saved Illinois $76 million from 2011-2015, according to new data from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

The program distributed $15.5 million in grants to achieve these results, which placed 2,500 nonviolent offenders in targeted programs to treat issues like addiction and mental health disorders, which may be contributing to individuals’ criminal activity.

Illinois needs reforms like these to prevent expensive – and often counterproductive – incarceration of those whose crimes are better addressed through other means, and to help ex-offenders turn around their lives and become productive members of their communities.

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