May 1

Convicted Felons Need Fewer Barriers to Obtaining State-Issued ID, Says Attorney General

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Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, advocating that states should make it easier for convicted felons to obtain state-issued IDs upon release from prison. Her remarks were part of a broader push by the Justice Department to reexamine criminal justice policies that have been perceived by many as overly harsh on released felons, putting too many barriers in the way of their re-entry into society. The department has released a 7-page policy statement entitled “Roadmap to Re-entry” outlining recommendations for reform.

Difficulties obtaining state IDs can have wide-ranging impacts on returning citizens, including preventing them from obtaining housing, employment, credit, and even banking accounts. This can create a snowball effect that forces ex-convicts to exist on the margins of society, which reform advocates say may contribute to a cycle of reoffending. The Justice Department recommends state governors allow ex-convicts returning to society to simply exchange their prisoner identification cards for state-issued IDs, or to accept prison IDs as primary identity documents. These measures would greatly ease the process of re-entry and send a message to reformed ex-convicts that society is invested in their success.

To this end, the Justice Department also recommends that federal prisons create individualized re-entry plans for each inmate prior to release that will take their individual histories and risk factors into account. The agency is also reviewing a network of halfway houses where the majority of ex-convicts are housed prior to being fully released, and assessing strengths and weaknesses in life skills and job training programs to better meet their needs and prepare them for successful re-entry. The Justice Department is also publishing a small manual with advice and guidance on re-entry to all U.S. citizens leaving corrections facilities.