Politics

Colorado may soon be required to help everyone leaving prison obtain a photo ID

It could be the key to accessing social services and educational opportunities, getting a job, or finding a place to live. But as recently as 2015, less than half of adults leaving the Colorado prison system had a photo ID or state-issued driver’s license upon their release.

“The ID card sounds normal, but it has a huge impact on accessing the things people take for granted – applying for a job, getting a steady income, finding a home, opening a bank account,” said Kyle Piccula, a spokesperson for the nonprofit advocacy group. . Colorado Health.

And now a bipartisan group of congressmen is looking to endorse it Senate Bill 153, Which would legalize and expand an existing program to ensure that every criminal who exits the state’s prison system has assistance in obtaining an ID card.

The state senator said, “It’s the smallest of things, and it can make the biggest impact.” James Coleman, a Denver Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the legislation. “This piece of plastic is elusive or impossible for people who have previously been imprisoned to secure.”

Coleman is working on the measure with the state senator. John Cook, Greeley Republican and former Wilde County Mayor.

After serving a prison sentence, they may not be in possession of the ID, birth certificate, or other identification documents required to access basic services and rebuild their lives after imprisonment.

Senate Bill 153 The Colorado Department of Corrections may be required to review each inmate prior to release and ensure that he or she has assistance in obtaining an ID.

“It’s just the most important period to prevent recidivism, once they’ve been released,” Coleman said. “The biggest problem [people are] Just don’t know the process or how to navigate it. “

Finding stability in the first few years after release is also key to avoiding remand. Many Coloradin residents in a correctional system do not have a high school diploma and may suffer from substance abuse and mental health and lack a support system. Combined with the stigma against employing people with a prison record, the difficulty of finding a job can make people more likely to re-engage in criminal behavior.

“We know that if someone can have a steady income and secure housing … the likelihood that they will have better health outcomes is much higher,” said Piccola of Healthier Colorado, who helped develop the bill.

The Colorado Department of Corrections has helped criminals with identification cases for a number of years, but it wasn’t until the state passed legislation in 2010 These programs have become official, spokeswoman Annie Skinner said.

The state followed suit in 2014 by funding a partnership with the Colorado Department of Revenue to create two on-site driver licensing offices, which launched later that year.

“We have seen tremendous improvements in issuing ID cards to incarcerated individuals who have returned to society in the past decade,” Skinner said. “Our management policies, and this bill language, form a strong basis for us to continue and improve our work.”

Partnership helps perpetrators overcome practical and bureaucratic barriers to acquiring an identity. This may mean helping the individual to apply for a new ID card; Replacement of Social Security cards, birth certificates, and other documents required to obtain one in the first place; Provide transportation to an appointment or waive costs associated with an ID application.

The program was effective. In 2013, 1,577 people left prison with an ID, or 22.6%. By 2019, the number of violators leaving the system with identification increased to 5,525, or 78.5%, according to A. 2019 report On initiatives to re-enter the system.

Skinner said that this rate has since risen to 82%, although it has decreased to 75% during the coronavirus pandemic due to “operational practices implemented to limit virus transmission in our correctional environment”.

“It’s an evidence-based success,” said Picula. “When the focus is on providing people with the necessary resources, it works.”

The new legislation would make the program mandatory, which Picula said would protect it from being canceled under the governor’s administration in the future.

Inmates can now refuse assistance, and the law doesn’t change that. In 2019, 827 offenders were released without an ID, 158 did not want help and 54 others forfeited their right to receive it. The department was unable to obtain ID cards for 615 people, according to a 2019 report.

The bill would also require DOC to publish annual statistics on how many perpetrators who do not have an identity and how many have managed to obtain one as a result of the program.

A legislative financial analysis of the bill is not yet available, so it is not known how much the additional cost to expand the program, which is based on an existing administrative regulation, is unknown.

“The good news is that this program already exists,” Coleman said.

The bill’s first hearing is scheduled for March 16 at the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

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