But the attorney general also wants to help with a specific, practical problem: getting IDs for inmates once they’re released.
It might seem like a nuisance, but not having identification can have significant, real world consequences for those struggling to build a life outside of confinement. An ID is often necessary to secure a job or a place to live, to register for school or to open a bank account. And, according to the attorney general, it’s not always to easy for prisoners in the federal system to get state identification after they are released. In letters to the 50 state governors and the mayor of D.C., she said the Justice Department wanted to work with state officials to change that, developing a way for convicts to exchange their federal inmate identification cards and release documents for state IDs.
“Access to government-issued identification documents is critical to successful re-entry,” Lynch wrote in one letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post by the Justice Department.
Lynch wrote in the letter that Arizona, California, Illinois, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin already allow inmates leaving their state systems to trade in prison documents for IDs, and others have separate programs and policies to address the issue. But she said such programs are “rarely accessible” to the thousands returning home from federal facilities.
The attorney general is scheduled to appear in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon to outline the broader reforms aimed a reducing recidivism and talk about the steps being taken in the federal Bureau of Prisons to implement them. In a separate but similar initiative known as Smart on Crime, the Justice Department in recent years has worked to reduce the prison population and enforce drug laws more judiciously.