Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Congressman Kweisi Mfume (MD-07) introduced the New Pathways Act. This legislation would help formerly incarcerated Americans re-enter society by requiring the Bureau of Prisons to help these individuals obtain government-issued identification.
More than 600,000 Americans are released from prison each year and upon release face significant barriers to reentry. Among these barriers is the need for a government ID, which is a requirement for renting an apartment, setting up a bank account, registering to vote, and more.
"Our criminal justice system as it exists now seemingly encourages recidivism. When incarcerated people are released, they are left on their own to create new lives for themselves while simultaneously facing obstacles that are almost insurmountable. Without the resources necessary to overcome these obstacles, many newly released Americans remain stuck in a cycle of recidivism," said Congresswoman Watson Coleman. "The federal government must do more to support recently released individuals, and assisting them in the process of obtaining identification is a crucial first step. By passing the New Pathways Act, we can reduce the number of repeat offenders and bring us one step closer to ending mass incarceration. I'm proud to have introduced this legislation and urge my colleagues in Congress to support it."
"If we are serious about addressing inequality in the United States, then we must take a hard look at the criminal justice system and offer comprehensive solutions. Formerly incarcerated individuals unmistakably face barriers to successfully re-entering our communities after serving their time," said Congressman Kweisi Mfume. "The New Pathways Act is a necessary step towards reentry reform and will help formerly incarcerated individuals obtain the resources they need to become productive community members, as is the intended outcome of any fair and equitable criminal justice system."
The New Pathways Act mandates that the BOP take steps to obtain for formerly incarcerated citizens a Social Security card and a proof-of-citizenship document, such as a passport. For non-citizens, the bill requires the BOP to help the individual obtain either proof of lawful residence or an employment authorization document.
The New Pathways Act is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). It has been endorsed by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Center or Law and Social Policy, Justice Action Network, JustLeadershipUSA, Campaign for Youth Justice, The Sentencing project, the Interfaith Action for Human Rights, National Crittenden, and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.