Board Pursues Plan to Issue ID Cards to Ex-Offenders

For thousands of inmates released from jail, returning to normal life is a struggle.   One of the biggest challenges they face comes from the lack of government-issued identification. Without it, they cannot drive, readily enroll in school or get a job.

To help thousands of ex-offenders trying to re-enter society seamlessly, the Board of Supervisors this week voted to ask county offices, including the probation and sheriff’s departments, and Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee to work with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to develop a process that would provide IDs both to adult and youth ex-offenders.  One potential option would be to place California Department of Motor Vehicles staff at county jail and probation facilities to distribute ID cards. The agencies are to return to the board by early March with a plan that includes proposals on how to fund the program.  County departments already have begun a process to provide birth certificates to ex-offenders.

More than 19,000 inmates spend their days behind bars in one of eight Los Angeles County jails.  Upon release, these ex-offenders leave jail without an identification card or their birth certificate, making their re-entry into society difficult to navigate, including obtaining the mental health and substance abuse services they need, and increasing the likelihood of failure and recidivism.

“Providing these vital records is fundamental if we are to reduce recidivism and improve public safety,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion.  “We want low crime rates; we want a low recidivism rate, and we want successful re-entry of ex-offenders. So I applaud the board for supporting a plan that seeks to help this population lead productive lives.”

Angela Chung, policy associate with Children’s Defense Fund applauded the motion.

“This is a common sense solution and real cost effective approach to working with people,” said Chung.

Susan Burton, executive director of a New Way of Life Re-Entry Project and a member of the county’s Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections, which conducts inspections of jails, probation and correctional facilities in the county, noted that the motion will enhance public safety.

“This is just good public safety,” said Burton.  “ID’s are what everyone needs when they are coming back into the community.”