US to states: Make it easier for ex-prisoners to obtains IDs

Attorney General Loretta Lynch prepares for Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. (Credit: Chance Seales)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch is urging the nation’s governors to make it easier for convicted felons to obtain state-issued identification after they get out of prison, part of a broader plan being announced Monday to help smooth the path for state and federal inmates who are preparing to re-enter society.

The announcement, on the first day of National Reentry Week, is aimed at helping the roughly 600,000 state and federal prisoners who return each year to American neighborhoods to better acclimate to society and remove some of the hurdles ex-convicts face in getting jobs, education and housing.

“The long-term impact of a criminal record prevents many people from obtaining employment, housing, higher education and credit_and these barriers affect returning individuals even if they have turned their lives around and are unlikely to reoffend,” Lynch said in a seven-page policy titled “Roadmap to Reentry.”

She planned to announce the policy change at an appearance in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

The Justice Department initiative directs the federal Bureau of Prisons to prepare an individualized re-entry plan for each inmate that will take into account substance abuse, criminal history and education level. In addition, the agency will be reviewing its network of halfway houses and assessing its life skills, education and job training programs to ensure that they’re best serving the needs of inmates. A pilot program is also being launched at four BOP facilities for children of incarcerated parents.

Lynch is separately calling on governors to allow federal inmates who are returning to their communities to exchange their prisoner identification card for state-issued identification, or to simply accept their BOP card as an identity document. Without identity documents, Americans leaving prison face challenges in getting jobs, housing or opening bank accounts, Lynch wrote in a sample letter to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

The topic of prisoner re-entry has attracted growing attention on the state and federal level. Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order that would allow more than 200,000 convicted felons to cast ballots in November.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

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