SALT LAKE CITY — Newly released prison or jail inmates could obtain temporary state IDs to enable them to apply for jobs and housing under a bill endorsed by a House committee Monday.
HB320, sponsored by Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, says the temporary card "shall be recognized and grant the person the same privileges as a regular identification card."
Hutchings said one of the unintended consequences of the federal REAL ID Act, which requires all applicants for driver licenses and state identification cards to present specific identifying documents, is that newly released inmates cannot immediately access birth certificates or Social Security cards.
Yet, one of the most important factors in their successful re-entry to society is obtaining work and housing, Hutchings said.
"We have put them in a really sticky spot," Hutchings told the House Government Operations Committee on Monday.
This issue has the potential to derail the extensive efforts put into helping inmates successfully transition to life outside prison, "only to have that stifled in the first 72 hours because they have no ID," he said.
Hutchings said people who volunteer at the prison brought the issue to his attention.
"They said, 'We've got a huge problem here we can't address,'" he said.
Some inmates have been in prison so long that their driver's licenses are expired or other personal documents are lost or have been destroyed. The temporary ID would buy time to allow released inmates to assemble the documents they need to obtain permanent state identification cards or driver's licenses.
Nanette Rolf, director of the Utah Driver License Division, said the temporary identification would likely be handled like temporary driver's licenses, which are valid for six months under administrative rule.
Without identification, people who have been released from jail or prison also have limited ability to conduct financial transactions, Hutchings said.
Zions Bank, in an arrangement with the Department of Corrections, has honored release letters from the agency to allow released inmates to cash checks.
"Currently, that's the only arrangement we have," Hutchings said.