Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good Article in CWRU Magazine

Consider the Difficulty in Finding Identification

The CWRU Magazine, Think, had an interesting article about how difficult it is for those re-entering from incarceration to obtain identification. As we move forward in Ohio again on changing the process for voting (Remember how great a job we did in the 2005 reform?), legislators need to keep in mind how difficult it is to obtain identification.

In case the article disappears on the CWRU website here it is:
Regaining Identity a Nightmare for Recent Inmates

Obtaining an identification card is, seemingly, a normal passage through life. But those who recently have been released from prison, a valid ID can be a nearly impossible luxury.

Case Western Reserve University social-work researcher Amy Blank Wilson, PhD, says obtaining identification is an uphill battle for inmates reentering society. Lacking it can bar ex-offenders from public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, which require clients to show ID.

“Released prisoners are being systematically excluded because of UD requirements,” she says.

The problem starts early in the criminal justice system: Suspects routinely have their identification confiscated when they are arrested. Those who don’t have it with them as they are apprehended are never given an opportunity to grab it. And the homeless are often forced to abandon all belongings on the street.

Wilson says that for those who are lucky enough to have some form of ID when they’re released, often what they have isn’t enough. Obtaining major forms of government-issued identification-such as a Social Security card- can require two different forms of Ids, such as a driver’s license and birth certificate, neither of such can be granted without at least one other major form of ID.

“When they’re released, former inmates face the Catch-22’ that it takes ID to get ID,” Wilson says. “This is keeping people from receiving life-sustaining resources. They’re missing out on the services they need.”
As a founding member of the local Homeless ID Collaborative under the guidance of West Side Catholic, the public needs to realize that it is very difficult to both afford and obtain a birth certificate. For those not born in Ohio, it can take months to get a birth certificate and the cost can be as high as $70. This is not an easy undertaking, and as the article suggests identification is now invaluable for housing, voting, obtaining a job and health care. Legislators need to be aware that identification is not so easy to come by even if the state decides to pay for the state identification card. A citizen cannot get a state id unless they have a birth certificate and social security number.

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