State agencies partner on returning citizen initiative

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    The Michigan Department of State (DOS) and the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) this week announced a joint initiative to help those released from prison with a driver license or state ID.

    “For formerly incarcerated individuals, obtaining ID is one of the biggest obstacles they face, and it’s also the first hurdle they have to cross before they can do anything else,” said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. “This partnership removes that obstacle and helps returning citizens start off on the right track to reintegrating into their communities.”

    A pilot of the program is already under way and initiative will be fully launched later this summer. Benson made the partnership a priority when she took office in 2019. Through the initiative, DOC will obtain required documents, paperwork and photos for individuals designated for parole and will send that info directly to DOS, where either a driver’s license or state ID will be processed.

    Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington | Casey Hull

    “This initiative is an important step that builds on the years of work the MDOC has done to help returning citizens have their vital documents upon release,” said Heidi Washington, DOC director. “We know that providing identification after exiting the criminal justice system will play a huge role in producing positive outcomes for parolees and the community at large, and we’re proud to be partnering on this effort.”

    Once someone has been paroled, they will be provided their driver license or ID and registered to vote unless they choose not to be, along with a workforce development packet that includes information outlining the restoration of their voting rights.

    “This initiative is the latest in our continued effort to position Michiganders who have gone through the criminal justice system for success upon their release,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “Proactive programs, like this, will restore returning citizens with the rights that they are guaranteed under the law and provide lifelong opportunity after parole.”

    The Detroit Branch NAACP has long carried out an effort to address the needs of those incarcerated and return citizens. The civil rights organization supports the MDOC-SOS collaboration.

    “Removing the obstacle to obtain identification is a very important step in the right direction for the MDOC and SOS,” said Kamilia Landrum, Detroit Branch NAACP executive director. “Ensuring that returning citizens are registered to vote and have proper identification as they return home not only lifts their voice at the voting booth, but removes an unnecessary burden in their process of becoming productive members of their community. We look forward to the implementation of more progressive policies that correct the injustices housed in our criminal justice system.”  

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.