No Identification - A Barrier to Success

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Wednesday - January 23, 2013.

For people coming out of prison, lack of identification is one of the most fundamental barriers to success. Without official forms of ID (Social Security card, birth certificate, drivers license or other government-issued photo ID), they can't get a job, housing, health care, education, insurance, a bank account or access many of the basic services and programs that can help them move toward self-sufficiency . . . 

Their ID may have been lost during processes associated with their arrest and incarceration. Their drivers license may have been suspended for non-payment of child support,  DUI or other offenses. If they experienced homelessness before their incarceration, any ID they might have had may have been lost or stolen. Many never had a copy of their Social Security card or birth certificate. 

Yet, obtaining ID is a "catch-22":

* they can't get a Social Security card without showing a birth certificate

* in order to apply for a birth certificate, they must show a valid, government-issued photo ID and proof of residence

* in order to apply for a state-issued photo ID or drivers license, they must show their Social Security card, proof of identity and proof of residence.

The Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization, in partnership with PA CareerLink of Lancaster County provides a free service to assist people coming out of prison to obtain necessary ID to help them on the road to self-sufficiency.  Since starting this service, the RMO has helped over 85 people to obtain IDs. For information on how to get help obtaining ID through this program, contact the RMO at 717-723-1075.

For a more in-depth perspective on the impact of lost or stolen ID, see this article on the website for "Governing" magazine, titled "The Catch-22 of Restoring Lost ID"

About the Author

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). She was a featured TEDx speaker at the first-ever TEDx event in Lancaster. 

She is an NIC-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, and a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Healing Communities model. She is also a trained restorative justice mediator.

Prior to Melanie's involvement with the RMO, she spent several years researching and writing the book Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (Brethren Press, 2009), which tells the true story of a woman who volunteered in Pennsylvania's state prisons for over 30 years, creating inmate education and reentry programs based on principles of restorative justice. After Grace Goes to Prison was published, Melanie traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other reentry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.