Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that eligible individuals leave prison with a valid form of government identification, and that ID is accepted by various components of the federal government. For people leaving prison, a valid form of ID is crucial, necessary to secure a job, obtain housing, and rejoin communities. Yet up to 48% of people leaving federal prison do so without any vital documents—no Social Security card, birth certificate, or state ID.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is currently rolling out a program to issue a photo ID release card to individuals exiting the prison system; however, there is no guarantee that this ID card would be widely accepted, or fulfill the requirements necessary to access federal benefits. This legislation would ensure that all eligible individuals receive a photo identification card, and that identification is accepted by various federal agencies.  

“A valid form of ID is needed to secure housing, apply for jobs, and gain access to assistance programs that will ease the transition back into society,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation that will eliminate unnecessary hardships for individuals looking to restart their lives.” 

“A valid form of ID is a critical first step for those looking for a fresh start and is necessary to become a productive member of society,” said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation requires the Federal Bureau of Prisons to issue a photo identification card to all incarcerated individuals, making the transition back to society easier and paving the way for a better future.”

Specifically, The BOP ID Act would:

  • Require the BOP to issue a photo identification card to all incarcerated individuals, except non-citizens, upon exiting the BOP facility;
  • Direct the BOP to create a system where BOP issued cards can be exchanged for state identification card;
  • Require federal agencies to accept release cards as proof of identification;
    • Specifically requires that the ID be accepted as a valid form of identification for social safety net programs, like SNAP, TANF, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and other programs administered/funded by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development. 
    • Require acceptance of the ID for entry into federal buildings and for probation pretrial, and court services in federal and D.C. courts.

In the House of Representatives, Reps. David Trone (D-MD-06), Barry Moore (R-AL-02), Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04), and Nathaniel Moran (R-TX-01) have introduced companion legislation.

“MCCA firmly believes that ensuring formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society is critical to preventing recidivism. This includes ensuring they have access to basic human necessities, like food, shelter, and healthcare, as well as economic opportunities to help support themselves and their families,” said Laura Cooper, MCCA Executive Director. “A lack of government-issued identification is a well-documented, significant barrier that can prohibit recently released individuals from being able to obtain the assistance that they need. The BOP Release Card ID Act of 2023 will address this issue by requiring BOP to provide each inmate with a photo ID card upon their release that can serve as the proof of identification needed to participate in federal benefit programs. On behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association’s membership, I would like to thank Senators Warner and Tillis for this critical legislation.”

“The Bureau of Prisons ID Act would help eliminate an obstacle faced by many people as they return to society after prison: the lack of proper ID. Under the bill, the bureau would provide federal ID cards to people as they leave prison and build a pathway to state identification. This simple step will enable people to access housing, healthcare, and social services — all of which require ID, and all of which are vital in the first months after leaving prison,” said Ames Grawert, senior counsel in the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.

Text of the legislation is available here.