A partnership between the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) and the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has reached a new level in assisting those who are leaving prison. The agencies have expanded a project to provide state identification cards to those who are preparing for release.
It is the next step in a joint venture launched more than a year ago by NDCS and the DMV, which allowed those housed in NDCS community correctional centers to go to the DMV after hours and obtain their state IDs. To date, 543 identifications have been issued at Lincoln and Omaha DMV locations as part of that process.
“State IDs are necessary for work release, job seeking, obtaining a bank account and securing housing,” said NDCS Director Scott R. Frakes. “There is not much that you can do these days without that identification. Having it in hand, upon return to the community, is a huge advantage.”
As part of the new project, a mobile licensing unit from the DMV was brought to the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP) where nearly a dozen men were able to receive their IDs. The Nebraska Office of Vital Records, through the Department of Health and Human Services, works with NDCS to ensure each person receives a certified copy of their birth certificate, which is required to obtain a state ID.
The process utilized at the penitentiary will eventually be offered at other facilities. Once the program is up and running, representatives from the DMV will bring their mobile licensing unit to secure facilities regularly to issue state IDs. Each identification card is paid for by the recipient.
Sara O’Rourke, administrator of the DMV’s Driver Licensing Services Division was a key lead in the project. “This has been a great example of our departments working together to put our customers first. Embracing a culture of continuous improvement has allowed us to deliver a necessary service to those who are about to reenter society.”
NDCS Deputy Director Dawn-Renee Smith said having great partners in the DMV and Vital Records helped ensure that all aspects of the process operated together. “It was not a simple undertaking. It took months of planning and coordination. We shared the vision and their team members were immediately on board.”
Brian Hassenplug was among those who received his ID at NSP. Scheduled for release in five months, he said that receiving a state ID was a meaningful sign that he was ready to move forward with his life. “This is one of the last things I have to worry about getting before I leave NSP. I appreciate the opportunity and effort the agency puts into reentry.”
NDCS Reentry Case Manager Rafael Hernandez said with the new process in place, a major barrier for returning to society is removed. “Without something as simple as having a state ID, which is an item that most people in the community take for granted, our population is limited on what they can do once they are living back in the community.”
So far, the focus has been on obtaining identifications for individuals who are Nebraska residents. Soon, the same process will be initiated for incarcerated individuals who have out-of-state birth certificates.
“We are dedicated to ensuring all of those eligible to obtain a photo identification credential are able to do so,” said Rhonda Lahm, DMV director. “We look forward to working alongside our partners to roll this opportunity out to other facilities in the coming months.”
For Martin McManaman, the effort to secure a state ID went much smoother at NSP than it did the first time he was released from prison. He said he made sure to sign up this time, so he would not have the same challenge he did before. “I’m already a step ahead. It’s good to have this and it makes it easier to get the things I need. A lot of places require you to have an official ID to do anything.”