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Ex-inmates to get free ID cards, other residents pay fees for theirs

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(The Center Square) – The governor is expected to sign a flurry of bills including Senate Bill 2803, which expands reentry identification card programs for inmates who served time in either a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility located in Illinois, or county jails across the state.

Opponents say law-abiding citizens, who have never gone to prison, have to pay a fee to get state issued ID but former criminals get the card for free through State Rep. Justin Slaughter’s legislation. Slaughter said ID cards are a big factor when it comes to reducing recidivism.

“Mainly we see a big difference in regards to housing, unemployment, establishing a bank account and these things are very important to address recidivism,” said Slaughter. “The county jails are voluntary, in terms of their participation in the program, there will be minimal to no cost to correctional facilities and the Secretary of State’s office is committed to putting forth those resources that are needed to bring the ID card to fruition.”

Illinois citizens who have not been convicted or served time in either a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility, the Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, or county jail have to pay a $10 to $20 fee to be issued a state ID card. State Sen. Andrew Chesney questioned State Sen. Christopher Belt, who carried the bill in the Senate, on the Senate floor.

“I think our concern is that right now if you have a poor or working poor person in the state that is of the age of 18 to 64 they have to pay a fee of $20 for an ID, but yet you can be convicted by a jury of your peers, either for a felony or misdemeanor, and you get a free ID. I was wondering why this legislation wouldn’t include a free ID for those who are poor or working poor, of limited means, so they would also have that same benefit that we’re allowing those who have been convicted in that state of Illinois?” said Chesney

Belt said the legislation is specifically targeted for those who are transitioning back into society. He said the goal is to help reduce recidivism.

State Sen. Terri Bryant during debate on the Senate floor shared her concerns about the bill allowing for inmates to take advantage of the taxpayers. For instance, an inmate who gets locked up for a weekend might request the Secretary of State give him or her a free ID.

“In my experience, 20 years in the Department of Corrections, once someone who is incarcerated who really wants to make sure that they get everything that’s due to them while they’re locked up, will in fact ask for this ID card simply because they can. So we run the risk of having those who are locked up for a weekend or a furlough asking for that ID. I will say in committee that somebody testified from the Secretary of State’s office that they would be willing to do that [give those incarcerated for a weekend an ID], and that they are not concerned about what this might cost,” said Bryant.

Belt said this bill won’t apply to those who are incarcerated over the weekend or for those incarcerated who are in prisons or jails on furlough.

“I really think it [the bill] is for people who are incarcerated for a length of time and then are transitioning back into society, not those who will come in on a furlough or those who are locked up for the weekend, five days or six days. The bill came from a federal probation officer who wanted to reduce the recidivism rate of those going out and then turning around and coming back in [to prison] because of the prohibitive factor of trying to get an ID,” said Belt.

A furlough is an authorized absence from a federal prison by an inmate who is not under escort of a staff member, U.S. Marshal, or state or federal agents.

Opponents are concerned nefarious inmates will ask for several free ID cards and ultimately cost taxpayers a lot of money.

The bill is on the governor’s desk and if signed the bill becomes law.

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