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A focus on IDs central to state’s push to improve inmates’ transition back into society

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 5:50 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 12:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state prison system is working to streamline the process for inmates seeking an official government ID before they’re released.

They’ll also get a free bus pass.

The program is part of a push to help inmates transition more seamlessly back into the community. Without an ID and transportation, many former inmates struggle to seek steady employment.

Hawaii News Now recently spoke with a former inmate released from Halawa Correctional Facility about a month ago. He asked that he withhold his identity because he’s looking for work.

“I can guarantee you everyone has the same anxieties when they come out because they don’t prepare you for the outside world,” he said.

“They don’t. They house you and then they kick you out.”

When he walked out of Halawa, he planned to begin the job search process. But without a state identification or a Social Security card, he hit a brick wall almost immediately.

“Sometimes it’s easier just to screw up and go back in, that way you know what you gotta do,” he said.

Bud Bowles, executive director of United Self-Help, a non-profit organization that assists released prisoners, said the state’s process for transitioning inmates back into the community is “not good.”

“The purpose of this is to get them back to normal life as soon as possible,” he said.

He says the state can do more to give inmates a chance to succeed at transitioning back into society. He said getting a state ID requires a Social Security card, which former inmates don’t always have.

The whole process can take months.

The Department of Public safety acknowledges the challenges.

State Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Tommy Johnson said inmates transitioning out will soon get a free, 30-day bus pass so they can get to agencies set up to assist them.

DPS officials say the 30-day passes would go to those that have either been incarcerated for more than a year and are being released on parole by the Hawaii Paroling Authority or have completed their sentence without prior experience in the state’s work furlough program. DPS added it is still in the process of seeking funding for the initiative.

Johnson hopes to implement that change in the next two months, which would go a long way in giving those who’ve served their sentence a fighting chance.

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