TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) – An attempt to provide Florida's inmates with the documents they need to get jobs when they get out of prison moved a step closer to reality.
A Senate panel Monday unanimously passed a bill that would require the Department of Corrections to provide every Florida-born inmate with a certified copy of his or her birth certificate and a state ID card before release. It would also require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to waive the fees for ID cards and the Department of Health to waive fees for copies of birth certificates.
The measure (SB 274) is sponsored by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
"This is a very important bill," said Bob Dillinger, the public defender for Pinellas and Pasco counties. "Without an ID, you cannot get a job."
Dillinger said the problem was exacerbated about two months ago when the U.S. Social Security Administration started requiring ID cards to provide the print-outs that Dillinger's office had used to establish inmates' work histories.
"It's the true government Catch-22," he said. "We've found some ways to work around that, but that's a big impact on poor people. We have to get them an ID."
The bill is also backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.
A more far-reaching version of the measure, which included mental health and substance abuse treatment, failed last spring.
"If they get a job, they're not likely to recidivate," said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance. "Because when (you) go to a place to work, they want to know where you live, and when you go to a place to live, they want to know where you work and you can't do either without a state ID card."
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