Prisons Director: More Than Half Of Inmates Have No Identification Upon Release

Feb 25, 2019

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Even after a push to help inmates obtain their birth certificates, more than half of the people who are released from Nevada prisons have no form of identification when they leave — and it severely hinders their chances of success in the community, the head of the Nevada Department of Corrections told lawmakers.

Prisons Director James Dzurenda made his comments Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. Although NDOC spokeswoman Brooke Santina couldn’t provide exact figures on how many inmates had been released with no ID, the agency releases about 6,200 people a year, so Dzurenda’s estimate of 50 percent would mean more than 3,000 inmates are leaving without one each year.

“When we take all identification away from an offender, how do they get a place to stay? How do they get a hotel without identification? They can’t,” Dzurenda said in the hearing. “How do you get the resources, get into community programs without any identification or even get your pharmaceutical drugs that you need for treatment?”

Lawmakers last session approved a bill requiring NDOC to verify — with original documentation such as a birth certificate — the true name and age of a person before giving out any ID card. Minutes from 2017 indicated NDOC did not testify on the bill, and neither the DMV nor the NDOC told the lawmakers it might cost money.

When NDOC sought funding months later to hire more staff to comply with the new requirement, lawmakers questioned why the matter didn’t come up during the session. Meeting the goal has been difficult even after several staffers were hired to try to help inmates secure a birth certificate.

Out of the 12,959 inmates in prison as of earlier this month, 8,773 of them, or more than two-thirds, do not have a birth certificate on file.

NDOC says it has processed 4,707 birth certificates so far. In some cases, inmates had the documentation already or had received help in getting it through partners such as the Clark County Detention Center. The number of birth certificates that NDOC alone processed last calendar year is 3,733, Santina said.

But to help inmates when the certificates can’t be obtained, the NDOC has proposed a bill this session that would once again give prison officials the option again to offer an unverified ID, which would be clearly labeled as such.

To read the full story go to the Nevada Independent