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Secretary of State hopeful Giannoulias vows to give IDs to ex-offenders before their release from prison

“Current policies in Illinois are counterproductive and often create a sense of frustration among people, who more than anything, want to turn their lives around,” Giannoulias said in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias makes his concession speech in 2010.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias makes his concession speech in 2010.
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

In an effort to curb recidivism and help returning citizens “reintegrate into society,” Illinois Secretary of State candidate Alexi Giannoulias wants the state to issue ID cards to those ready to be released from prison before they’re let out.

The state’s current policies are “counterproductive and often create a sense of frustration among people, who more than anything, want to turn their lives around,” Giannoulias said in a statement.

“We need to do everything we can to provide them with a foundation to make that happen or their chances of returning to jail only increase,” the former state treasurer said. “A valid state identification card is just a small but vital first step in providing an opportunity for second chances.”

If elected to succeed outgoing Democratic incumbent Jesse White, Giannoulias said he pledges to work with the state’s Department of Corrections to coordinate obtaining documents for those soon to be released from prison.

The former U.S. Senate candidate also plans to eliminate the short-term correctional release cards provided to people in prisons and help them get the documents they need — at no cost to them — before their release date.

Other states — such as Florida, Oklahoma and Missouri — have already streamlined the process for IDs for people awaiting release from prison, according to a news release announcing Giannoulias’ policy proposal.

Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation into law in late 2016 meant to make it easier for people leaving prisons to get a state identification card, but that process can be harder for those who don’t have access to the required birth certificate or Social Security card.

Under the current system, people awaiting release who cannot obtain a valid ID are issued a temporary one that is good for only 90 days. Former inmates have complained that the temporary ID was not always recognized or not considered valid during the 90-day period, according to the news release.

Giannoulias called that a “double whammy.”

“Many inmates are unable to secure the documents they need before their release but the system fails them a second time as they don’t have necessary information, tools and financial resources after their release to navigate the various bureaucracies to obtain a birth certificate and a Social Security card,” Giannoulias said in his statement.

“We need to equip former inmates with valid identification, which will help them with basic tasks like locating housing, securing a job, opening a bank account, enrolling in assistance programs and attaining reliable transportation.”

Ald. David Moore (17th) announces his run for the office of the Illinois Secretary of State earlier this month.
Ald. David Moore (17th) announces his run for the office of the Illinois Secretary of State earlier this month.
Screen Image from Campaign Video

A spokeswoman for Ald. David Moore (17th), who jumped into the race earlier this month, said the policy will “be something that we look at,” but the South Side alderman has no plans of adopting anyone else’s campaign platform.

“We understand why issuing a state ID to ex-offenders is the right direction because it says to them ‘we see you, we value you, you’re not thrown away, and this is your passport to start your life all over again,’” said Delmarie Cobb, a spokeswoman for Moore.

“We have some of our own issues that we are going to be advocating for. We certainly are open to good ideas, and that’s what a primary is all about is each individual candidate, promoting their ideas and their vision for the office.”

Along with Giannoulias and Moore, Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia, state Sen. Michael Hastings and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) are also vying to succeed White.

City Clerk Anna Valencia, left, in 2019; Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, right, in 2010.
City Clerk Anna Valencia, left, in 2019; Then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, right, in 2010.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file; Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Valencia said in a statement Illinois already has a temporary driver’s license program and her office has launched the City Key Municipal ID. She also noted the state Senate recently passed a bill taking that initiative statewide.

“We look forward to Giannoulias joining our coalition of advocates fighting for a more welcoming state for returning citizens,” she said.