Nev. bill aims to help former inmates reintegrate into society with ID
The ID inmates get upon release isn't recognized as valid for many purposes
By Casey Harrison
Las Vegas Sun
LAS VEGAS — A Nevada bill to waive some fees for ex-convicts to get a driver's license would help them reintegrate into society and stay out further trouble with the law, supporters said.
As it stands, former prison inmates who had a license before they were locked up may be subject to late fees or other surcharges when they go to get it renewed.
The proposed bill would be a lifeline to men and women who often get out of prison with only a few dollars to their name, said Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy, R- Henderson, who introduced Assembly Bill 195.
The ID inmates get upon release isn't recognized as valid for many purposes, and ex-convicts often don't have the means to pay for a new license from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Hardy said.
Rather than helping ex-convicts reintegrate into society, the status quo is unduly punitive, she said.
"Look at all the things we need an ID for when we go somewhere and they ask for it," Hardy said. "First of all, they couldn't even drive to the DMV because they don't have a license. If you need a bank account, you need an ID — if you need medication or to rent a house or for a job application."
Hardy said the bill is a "commonsense measure" that will help reduce recidivism by helping former inmates get on with their lives.
The Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure held a hearing on the bill March 7, with advocates saying it could prevent some people from ending up back behind bars.
"In Nevada, where public transportation is limited, having a driver's license is key toward transportation," said Katie Brandon, an intern at the Fines and Fees Justice Center, which aims to eliminate costs that "distort justice," according to its website. "Here in Nevada, people are released from prison with a minimum of $25."
In her testimony endorsing the bill, Brandon cited a survey of 400 Nevada inmates in which about a third said a lack of transportation was a factor in their incarceration.
"By helping people get driver's licenses, we can lower their risk of reoffending and returning to prison," Brandon said.
Hardy said she modeled her bill after similar legislation in Delaware. Ex-convicts would have up to a year after their release to get an original or duplicate license, have a confiscated license reinstated or get a new license photo taken at no cost.
The DMV would also have to waive the $25 fee for a driver's license examination.
As written, the bill would only apply to people who served time at a state prison, not a local jail. When pressed by lawmakers last week, Hardy said she was open to amending the bill so it could be applied to as many people as possible.
The bill also drew the support of Metro Police, the state's largest law enforcement agency.
Adrian Hunt, who testified for Metro, said it was in the department's best interest to see inmates successfully reintegrated into society.
"Me, personally, this bill affects me. I remember vividly as an adolescent my father was incarcerated and (faced) many hardships trying to get back into society to be productive," Hunt said.
Among other proponents of the bill: the Clark County Public Defender's Office, the Washoe County Public Defender's Office and the NAACP of Nevada.
Nobody testified in opposition of the bill.
The Nevada DMV said it was neutral on the bill, but noted the proposed changes would cost the agency some $12,841 a year in lost fees.
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