UTAH STATE PRISON — Whether Colette Monahan had valid state identification wasn't top of mind Tuesday morning.
Monahan, 47, was being released from prison. Her next stop was a hospital for surgery and cancer treatment.
Still, she welcomed the opportunity having a temporary state ID upon her release.
"You need it for everything," she said.
Monahan was among around 50 inmates released from Utah Department Corrections facilities Tuesday. This was the second week that inmates, in a joint effort between the corrections department and the Utah Driver License Division, have been able to obtain temporary state IDs upon their release. The two agencies have set up a driver license office at the prison.
The IDs, which are valid for six months, give inmates and other eligible Utahns an opportunity to obtain temporary identification for six months until they can collect the necessary documentation for permanent state IDs or drivers' licenses.
The partnership was made possible under HB320, passed during the 2013 Legislature. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, authorized the driver license division to issue temporary ID cards.
Division director Nannette Rolfe said the change in the law will also help seniors and people with disabilities who need identification to bank, apply for public assistance or health care programs, find jobs or obtain housing.
"Even the elderly, to cash a Social Security check, they need some sort of ID," Rolfe said.
Capt. Bryan Taylor, who oversees Department of Corrections inmate programs, said corrections officials have long been aware of the challenges people face reintegrating into the community when they leave prison without identification.
Some inmates' identification expires while they are incarcerated. Some have lost documents such as their birth certificates or Social Security cards. Others have used aliases and other people's identities prior to their criminal convictions, which further complicates matters, Taylor said.
Some, like John Fowers, who was also being released from Department of Corrections custody Tuesday, no longer have any identifying documents.
"I lost everything when I got locked up. I have to start fresh all over again," he said.
Fowers, 26, said he will be living in a halfway house and working for a roofing company upon his release. He said he served his time in the Davis County Jail, which contracts with the state to provide prison beds.
Fowers said he had mixed emotions about leaving prison. He was "excited" about his release but also anxious about returning to the community.
"It's going to be kind of scary to finally have all this responsibility for once," Fowers said.
Meanwhile, Aaron Huskill, 22, said a temporary ID will help him "work, get off parole and try to go to school."
Huskill, who said he served six months in prison on drug charges, said he was tired of the stress of prison and ready to turn the corner in his life.
Having a temporary ID will help. One of his first priorities is getting a job.
"I'm willing to do anything, probably fast food to start," he said.
In the past, people who lacked ID ended up seeking help from homeless services providers.
During a 60-day period in 2011, only three of 64 people who were recently released from jail or prison were able to obtain necessary documents before their release, according to data collected by The Road Home, which provides shelter and case management to homeless people.
Taylor said corrections officials were keenly aware of the problem but needed Hutchings' legislation to bring the parties together.
"We needed a little help to make this happen," he said.
Cortney Boren, who was released from prison last week, said she has used her temporary ID numerous times.
Boren used it to apply for benefits at the Department of Workforce Services. On Tuesday, she needed ID to obtain a telephone.
Her LDS Church bishop has referred her to Deseret Industries for a job.
"That's going to be my starting job," she said.
Boren, who served nearly two years in prison on drug and theft by receiving charges, said she used her time in prison productively. She underwent substance abuse treatment and completed high school, something her mother and sister haven't done.
“I needed that place. It’s just something that I needed. I wouldn’t have stopped using. I’ve been using drugs for a long time. My mom had drugs in the house when I was young, so it’s just something I’ve been doing since I was 13 years old. I really haven’t known a better way until now. Now I have had these two years, I feel like a new person. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that life," Boren said of her time in prison.
She is getting reacquainted with her 11-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old son. They live with their father and his girlfriend, and they are doing well.
Boren is living with her grandparents, who are helping her transition to her other life responsibilities.
"I have a good family. They've been very patient with me so things are getting a lot better now," she said of the initial awkwardness of living outside of prison.
Having a valid ID, her birth certificate and Social Security card in hand upon her release is helping her get a start on her other life goals, Boren said.
"It would have been a long process. It would have delayed a lot of my responsibilities if I didn't get that. I think it makes a lot of us women being released really discouraged. If we're not getting right into the flow of things, it stresses us out — a lot," she said.
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