Los Angeles County will explore an agreement with the state Department of Motor Vehicles that could make it easier for offenders coming out of county jails and juvenile camps to get identification cards, potentially aiding them in finding jobs and enrolling in school or treatment programs.
County supervisors voted Tuesday to study the feasibility of having DMV workers stationed at county jails and probation facilities to help ex-offenders who lack identification cards.
In December, the board directed several county departments, including the Sheriff’s and Probation departments and county registrar, to establish a process for providing vital records to offenders who may not have them.
The county already has a program to help juvenile offenders get their birth certificates — with about $15,000 set aside to cover the cost of the documents — and is rolling out a similar program for adults. But it does not have a program to help offenders get state ID cards.
Several dozen activists, primarily youth who have been through the criminal justice system, came to listen to the discussion of the proposal. Some spoke of coming out of juvenile camps and being unable to enroll in school or access services without IDs. They cited state statistics showing that ex-prisoners who come out without identification cards are more likely to commit crimes again.
“It’s no mystery, sir, why we’re on the street,” Kim McGill, organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, told the supervisors. “We need to eat, and without IDs, we can’t access any resources to make that happen.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas requested that the Probation and Sheriff’s departments come back in a month with a report on the feasibility of placing a DMV office in jails and probation offices and helping offenders who can’t afford the application process.
“I take the point of view that we can and should be facilitators in this regard … because providing these vital records is fundamental if we are to reduce recidivism and improve public safety,” he said.
County Chief Executive William T Fujioka noted in a memo to the board that it had been “difficult to quantify the actual need for identification among Los Angeles County’s ex-offenders.”
[For the record, Jan. 28, 3:10 p.m.: The original version of this post wrongly stated that the vote count was 4-0 with Molina abstaining. It was 3-0, with both Molina and Antonovich abstaining.]
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