LANSING, Mich., March 7, 2023 — Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), along with State Reps. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township), Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe) and Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), introduced House Bills 4191-94 to codify the Returning Citizens Initiative in state law.
The Retuning Citizens Initiative is a program established by the Michigan Dept. of Corrections (MDOC) and Michigan Dept. of State (MDOS) to help individuals leaving the state corrections system to reintegrate into their communities by providing them with a driver’s license or state ID upon their parole or discharge from prison. This initiative expanded from a pilot program in June 2020 and by November 2021 provided over 5,000 returning citizens with the vital documents they need to secure critical needs like housing, a bank account, and employment.
“This legislation will codify into law a returning citizen’s ability to get back on their feet with dignity by giving them the basic tool of an ID or driver’s license,” Aiyash said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature, Secretary Benson and Governor Whitmer to pass the Returning Citizens Initiative and guarantee returning citizens access to these vital documents.”
“I am proud to work with lawmakers to ensure the successful program we pioneered with the Michigan Department of Corrections is made permanent in our state government.” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “Because of our partnership more than 98% of all citizens returning from state prisons have the opportunity to register to vote and get a state ID or driver’s license and these bills would ensure this service is provided to Michigan citizens and our democracy well into the future.”
“Providing identification to recently released Michiganders removes one of the largest barriers that returned citizens are facing in order to live and work in our state,” Brabec said. “This legislation also takes a huge step towards lowering recidivism rates by helping to ensure that returned citizens have their basic needs met, many of which require identification.”
Under this program the MDOC works with individuals who are designated for parole to collect the required documents and photos that are needed and then forwards the paperwork directly to the MDOS to process into a driver’s license or state ID. Once the individual is paroled or discharged, MDOC provides them with the license or ID upon their release.
“When somebody comes home from prison, we want them set up for success and ready to find housing, get a job, and give back to their community. That’s what keeps formerly incarcerated people out of trouble and keeps communities safe,” said Chuck Warpehoski, project director of Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration. “You can’t get a job or apartment without proper identification. MDOC and the Secretary of State implemented processes to dramatically improve delivery of these vital documents, but we’ve seen good practices like this come and go. That’s why it’s so important to pass legislation so that future leaders continue this smart policy.”
“Returning citizens need to be provided the opportunity to be successful. Prison is intended for rehabilitation and by guaranteeing IDs upon release, we are providing a necessary tool for people to become productive members of society,” said McFall.
“Having a photo ID unlocks many doors to successfully connect formerly incarcerated individuals with the services and opportunities critical for successful reentry,” Edwards said. “Rehabilitation is the process of re-educating and retraining those who have committed a crime. By withholding guaranteed access to an ID, we are holding hostage critical steps to the rehabilitation process for many. This is a step in the right direction for criminal justice in Michigan.”