By TRACY HARMON THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
May 17, 2008 02:45 am
CANON CITY - More than 50 inmates were photographed and fingerprinted Thursday, but this time, instead of going through booking to get into prison, they were getting their ticket to freedom. The photos and fingerprints were for driver’s licenses and state identification cards which newly paroled inmates will need for everything from getting a job to finding a place to live.
The program goal - bringing the driver's license bureau to prison - is designed to ease the transition from prison to the streets for inmates within 120 days of release, said Bill Zolman, who oversees the program for the Department of Corrections. It is a new program blossoming under the urging of Gov. Bill Ritter and bolstered by a cooperative spirit between the Colorado Department of Revenue's Driver’s License Bureau and DOC.
"This is one of the first times in the nation, that corrections and the driver's licensing authority, have worked this close together," Zolman said. "These men and women need these IDs to secure employment and get a bank account. "The program helps serve what the governor wants to do to reduce recidivism and ease the transition from prison to the streets."
A total of 90 to 100 inmates from Canon City, Buena Vista, Crowley and Arkansas Valley prisons were processed through the mini driver's license bureau this week. "We started the program six months ago and this is the second time we've done it," Zolman said.
Department of Motor Vehicle Director Joan Vecchi, with the help of two employees, set up the miniature driver’s license bureau at the East Canon Prison Complex visitor's center complete with computer, fingerprint machine, camera, blue photo backdrop and printer.
Just prior to establishing the lab at the prison complex, motor vehicle employee Aggie Garcia is provided with a list of names. She runs them through the system to see who qualifies for a drivers license, or, if the privilege is revoked, who will need a state identification card.
"Every once in a while we do mobile labs like this at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, places where people have a hard time getting out," Vecchi said. "The equipment vendor suggests we don't do it because moving the equipment is hard on it with the wear and tear." Because DOC releases, on average, 40 to 50 inmates a day, the license program, ideally, should be conducted once a month.
"If we could do it on a monthly basis, one day both in Canon City and maybe one day in Denver at Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, we could hit the vast majority of people," Zolman said. "Not everyone leaving needs this - some still retain their IDs and some are not interested."
Vecchi foresees a day when she can leave a set of equipment at the East Canon Prison Complexvisitor's center permanently to make the task easier. She also is hopeful she will get two new employees to run the mobile labs on a monthly basis.
Once the IDs are made, they are sent to the prison the inmate will be leaving, the address they will be paroling to, or even the shelter they will go to if they are homeless. Territorial prison inmate Robert Pullen was one of the inmates getting an ID Thursday. He is three weeks away from release.
"I'm grateful and I want to thank them for giving us this opportunity to do this," Pullen said. "This needed to happen because I've heard others couldn't get an ID, couldn't get a job and they end up right back in prison." As for Pullen, he has no intention of coming back. Now that he has his ID and a new Social Security card, as well as a job and place to live lined up, he has no plans to ever return to prison.
"I learned a lesson the hard way and I've paid my dues. It (making it on the outside) won't be a problem," he said.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Monday, May 26, 2008
By TRACY HARMON THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN