In a rare instance of bipartisanship, Democrats from the General Assembly are joining Gov. Bruce Rauner to promote a bill that would make it easier for Illinoisans fresh out of prison to get state ID cards.
Cabrini Green Legal Aid community organizer Colette Paine, herself a former inmate, said being unable to get an ID card can be what keeps a former prisoner from getting back on his or her feet.
"You can't even get a job and fill out your W-2 forms unless you have an ID or Social Security card," Paine said. "They may have been homeless. Their documents may be scattered here or there because of a living situation."
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Because of that hurdle, Rauner is joining State Sen. Kwame Raoul and State Rep. Mary Flowers, both Chicago Democrats, to pressure the state House to call a bill for a vote this fall that would require the Secretary of State's office to issue a state ID card to any former inmates who can produce their birth certificate, Social Security card and two proof-of-address documents, such as utility bills. The office would give temporary IDs to those who couldn't so they can produce their documents with the help of the Department of Corrections within 90 days, all the while having a way to qualify for things that require state IDs to obtain.
"The way it's set up right now, it's very difficult for an offender who's leaving prison to get an ID," Rauner said. "This shouldn't be the case."
Flowers said the House reviewed the bill, decided it needed improvement, but felt it still should be allowed to progress.
"We know when these people are going to be let out of these facilities,” Flowers said. “We need to have a plan so that they have the necessary papers upon their release."
SB 3368 is stalled in the Rules Committee.
Rauner said the main goal of the bill is to allow former inmates to reintegrate back into society, not return to prison. The legislation is part of recommendations made by the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to reduce Illinois' current prison population by 25 percent by 2025.
Legislation that reduces recidivism also reduces costs to the state and taxpayers.
“Every act of recidivism - every time someone commits a new crime after they leave prison – costs Illinois an average of $118,000,” Bryant Jackson-Green, a criminal justice policy analyst with the Illinois Policy Institute, said. “So that is financial costs to taxpayers, to courts, prisons, police and so forth.”