When leaving incarceration in Kentucky, too many people are stepping into the hallway of community without the key card to access any of its resources—a photo ID. To meet needs critical to survival and success upon reentry—including housing, employment, nutrition assistance, healthcare, mental health services, and substance use treatment—providers and employers require state-issued photo identification. The lack of one creates a barrier blocking the very first steps on a new path forward.
Unfortunately, the process of securing a photo ID is burdensome, requiring life documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, and/or other state-verified papers—to which many reentering people do not have access. Obtaining this paperwork often takes months as well as monetary resources. Even after procuring documents, people leaving incarceration face transportation challenges and required payments when receiving an ID through local government.
When people are unable to efficiently obtain an ID, the reentry hallway becomes a dead end. They cannot wait months for paperwork before finding income to secure food, medicine, a place to sleep, and other essentials.
Kentucky cannot wait either. Our state incarceration rate persists as the sixth highest in the nation while our recidivism rate exceeds 35%. Each barrier residents face upon reentry increases the likelihood that they will return to the criminal legal system, continuing to drive these trends and costs in the wrong direction. The wake of this impact hinders the prosperity of our state across the board, particularly affecting our employers. Kentucky has the second-lowest workforce participation rate in the country despite a growing number of fair chance employers willing, able, and motivated to hire people who have paid their debt to society. To change this trajectory, we must ensure reentering workers are equipped with the most basic tool needed for job applications and employment—a photo ID.
In the 2022 legislative session, policymakers must invest $250,000 annually to formalize and continue the successful reentry ID pilot program partnership between the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Department of Corrections, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Kentucky Chamber Foundation. As of February 2022, the program has expanded to all 14 state prisons and one county jail and processed 470 ID applications.
Without investment in foundational supports like an ID program, Kentucky will continue to pay the high budgetary, economic, and social costs of incarceration and recidivism. We must commit to proactive, common-sense strategies to strengthen our state and its residents. We must implement a statewide program providing state-issued photo identification to all people leaving incarceration.
Please CLICK HERE to endorse Liberation Identification, a movement to implement a statewide program providing state-issued photo identification to all people leaving incarceration in Kentucky.
Individuals Get on the Right Track to Reenter Society
“Now is really the time for all of us to not let the foot off the gas pedal and step up for these individuals trying to come out and have a better life.”Read Article
Smart on Crime Issues Legislative Priorities
“It’s incredibly discouraging for us when we know the resources exist, but people who are reentering can’t tap into them because they don’t have the basic tools they need.”Read Article
WAVE Country Interview
MUW Chief Policy Officer, Mandy Marler, and Liberation Identification Advocate, Jolie Scott on WAVE Country with Connie Leonard. The trio had an in-depth talk about the advocacy around this work, what it would mean for the state to implement a state ID program and how people can get involved.Watch
How to help Kentuckians released from jail or prison during COVID-19
“The current moment lends itself to understanding the challenges of reentry. As a result of the pandemic, Kentuckians know now more than ever how hard it is to reenter the workforce and community life without the supports needed to do so safely and securely.”Read Article
IDs Are a Necessity for Successful Reentry
“With the enhanced focus on reducing incarceration in Kentucky due to COVID-19 and the importance of reentry support services especially during the pandemic and recession, providing people with photo ID’s is a critical step towards facilitating reentry. For people leaving incarceration to successfully return to their communities, it is crucial they are able to access to housing, employment, health insurance, mental health services and substance use treatment.”Read
WLLV Conversations with KIPDA—Interview with Amanda Hall, Smart Justice Field Organizer, American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky
“I knew women, when I worked with this population, who it took us months to get them IDs, and they had people helping them…You have to think about our society and how often we use our IDs. We use it to get employment. We use it to get housing. We use it often we when go to a doctor’s appointments or other medical help. So, these IDs are such a huge barrier.”View
ACLU-KY Liberation Identification Panel
“All we want to do is get back to our dream. We had a dream before we went into incarceration. We’re trying to get back to our dream, and that identification is so important…We can do it. Look at us! We can become tax paying citizens and add to our community instead of taking away from our community. You guys can help us.”– Tayna FogleView