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Meet the 2016 Public Policy Challenge Finalists: Individual Dignity Project

February 13, 2016

The Individual Dignity Project team is made up of students Salomon Moreno-Rosa, Samantha Waxman, and Sarai Williams.

The Idea: The Individual Dignity Project

In 2014, the state of Pennsylvania alone imprisoned 50,700 individuals either in state or federal correction authorities. Every year, approximately 19,000 inmates are released from Pennsylvania state prisons, 30 percent of which are individuals (over 6,500 people) returning to Philadelphia. When incarcerated individuals are released back into their communities, they face a series of barriers to reintegration. Factors that contribute to recidivism stem from returning citizens’ inability to access a strong support system, including viable employment, stable housing, and access to public benefits and safety net services which all require presentation of a valid state-issued photo identification card. Currently, Pennsylvania DMV’s do not accept prison documentation as proof of identity whereby if a returning citizen does not have a proper ID after release, he or she may be delayed or prevented from applying for jobs, benefits and services, or housing.

Through the implementation of a pilot program at the State Road prison, The Individual Dignity Project proposes that all exiting prisoners receive a printed state-issued ID card on site of the prison upon release. This would be initiated through substantially improving coordination between the DMV and the prison ensuring that the procedure is seamless and effective. Given the barriers toward procuring an ID after prison, we believe that this solution is the most streamlined for returning citizens, and that it would not be a particularly significant administrative burden for either the DMV or prisons. Prisons already possess all background and biographical information for inmates and providing ID cards would simply be a clerical task. Once the process has been piloted at State Road, it can then be expanded to other prisons throughout the state. Increasing access to valid state-issued ID’s allows returning citizens to access resources that prevent recidivism and put them on the path toward a sustainable and thriving life post-release.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu