On Tuesday, a bill that would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide a California Identification card or driver’s license to every person released from state prison was introduced in the Assembly.
Assembly Bill 717, authored by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), would make it law for the CDCR to process original, renewal, and duplicate requests for California ID cards and driver’s licenses. To help facilitate this, AB 717 would set up all CDCR facilities with proper equipment to make California ID cards for poisoners being released, including DMV quality cameras, as well as help prisoners locate birth certificates, social security cards, and other needed documents for a California ID card.
The bill is designed as an expansion of AB 2308, a 2014 bill also authored by Stone, that granted California IDs to those being released from prison. However, as the bill only applied to those who had previously had a California ID, had a DMV filed photo taken in the past 10 years, had valid forms of identification paperwork, proof of legal presence in the U.S., and being free of fines and fees.
Assemblyman Stone wrote AB 717 as a way for recently released prisoners to not experience any hardships in getting housing, employment, healthcare, and other needs, the process of which has been made more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic. As getting an ID can take up to six weeks and can cost over $50 in cases where there is no birth certificate, Stone notes that puts an undue burden on them to rejoin society.
“If we do not provide formerly incarcerated people with access to necessary documents upon release, such as ID cards, then we are setting them up for failure,” said Stone on Tuesday. “We must provide them with the necessary tools to reintegrate into the community and a California identification card helps them tremendously. This will allow them to apply to jobs, rent an apartment, and open a bank account, all things that will help an individual become successful after their release.”
A need for ID during the COVID-19 pandemic
AB 717 has yet to be opposed by lawmakers, but many experts note that passage isn’t a sure thing.
“The bill makes a good case for all prisoners to get an ID, but it needs to have CDCR input,” Khalid West, a former prisoner in Los Angeles who helps others transition back into society, told the Globe. “You need to make sure every prison can put this in, and even if you do, you still need to make sure they’re Californian and American.”
“Having an ID right out of prison is really a big help, and I think that everyone can agree that us having a place to live and an easier way to get work so ex-prisoners don’t use programs like food stamps or public housing assistance more than they need is a good thing. Most prisoners do honestly just want to get back to their lives. But the bill should really be checked over by the CDCR first to make it as feasible as possible, and, because I know what many Californians think, as cheaply as possible.”
“That first bill like this was passed with pretty much everyone voting in favor of it. Do this right and it can be done again.”
AB 717 is expected to go before a policy committee in the coming months.