Both chambers of the Alaska Legislature unanimously passed a bill that requires the state Department of Corrections to issue identifications to all people leaving prisons and jails.
“It was great to see people unify around this basic concept that people need IDs upon release,” said Jonathan Pistotnik, the director of the Alaska Reentry Coalition, which coordinates services for people leaving prisons in Alaska.
Up to 15% percent of people leaving correctional facilities in Alaska don’t have IDs, according to the corrections department. Some people lose their driver’s licenses in prison or had them expire while incarcerated.
The department was previously issuing paper IDs, but they weren’t always accepted as official.
Pistotnik said he heard a recent story of someone being released from prison and struggling to even check into a hotel room without a valid state ID.
“People kept falling through the cracks,” he said. “[The bill] helps solidify that this is a valid ID from day one.”
Fifteen states currently require correctional departments to issue official IDs for people leaving their facilities, according to research from the National Conference of State Legislators submitted along with the bill.
Bill sponsor Sen. Rob Myers, a Fairbanks Republican and member of the minority, said the bill was a long time coming. Previous versions got stuck in committees.
“There were just too many interagency issues with the operations. The breakthrough this year was DOC finally said: ‘This is an issue. We need to fix it,’” he said.
The Department of Corrections said the legislation will not cost anything since it already has equipment to print IDs. The cards do not work as a driver’s license or to buy alcohol, but Myers said otherwise they have the same legal status as IDs issued by the DMV.
The bill passed the House Saturday and the Senate last Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the governor would review the bill once it’s sent to his office.