Inmate Lookup Free Nationwide Inmate Search Logo


Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and Sheriff Tom Dart launch a pioneering state ID program for Cook County jail detainees upon their release

12 Dec 2023, Jail News, by

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias helped launch a state ID program to support Cook County’s released detainees.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias and Sheriff Tom Dart launch a pioneering state ID program for Cook County jail detainees upon their release - Inmate Lookup

As part of a new state ID program initiative that Sheriff Tom Dart and Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announced on Monday, people leaving Cook County jail will now receive a state ID card upon release.

Since late 2020, individuals released from Illinois prisons have been obtaining state IDs at no cost through a pilot program, which was later expanded statewide and incorporated into state law this year. However, extending a similar program to detainees in county jails has proven more challenging due to the unpredictable lengths of stay for jail detainees, ranging from hours to several years.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart emphasized the significance of a state ID, calling it a critical need reported by inmates upon intake because it serves as a gateway to various essential services, regardless of how long a detainee stays there.

Dart recounted instances where potential employers ready to hire individuals for well-paying jobs faced obstacles due to the absence of a state ID, affecting transportation, housing, and social services for formerly incarcerated individuals and increasing the likelihood of reoffending.

Giannoulias highlighted the significance of providing valid identification to assist individuals in basic tasks such as securing housing and employment, opening bank accounts, enrolling in assistance programs, and obtaining reliable transportation. He emphasized that fulfilling these basic needs not only reduces recidivism but also saves taxpayer money and strengthens communities.

Acknowledging the difficulty and cost associated with obtaining the necessary paperwork for a state ID, including social security cards and birth certificates, Giannoulias recognized historical disparities that make this task even more challenging for people of color, even without the added challenge of incarceration.

Sodiqa Williams, Senior Vice President of Reentry Services at the Safer Foundation in Chicago, stressed the importance of addressing these challenges promptly, noting that formerly incarcerated individuals can lose hope when encountering repeated hurdles after release from jail or prison.

While other states have launched similar programs for inmates leaving prisons and lawmakers have attempted to create statewide programs for jails, the Cook County jail ID pilot program stands as the first of its kind in the nation, according to Sheriff Dart. Not all detainees lack a state ID or license at the time of arrest, but it may have expired during their time in jail or been held for evidence.

Inmates in the Cook County electronic monitoring program were the first participants in the jail’s pilot program, which started on Monday. According to Dart, the jail has “better data” on this group and the assistance of probation officers, who are in charge of following up with released inmates.

According to Dart, he has spent the last fifteen years advocating for detainees to be granted access to state identification cards following their release. When questioned on Monday about why the request had not been pursued earlier this year, Giannoulias, who was elected to the position last year following the 24-year tenure of former Secretary of State Jesse White, declined.

He stated that it was not the sheriff’s office or the sheriff, emphasizing that he was not there to point fingers at the past and highlighting that they are focusing on the present. He mentioned that the sheriff had reached out to them early on in the administration, and they had found ways to work together to ensure the smooth operation of the pilot program.

In smaller populations in two Metro East counties, sheriff’s department officials acknowledged similar barriers faced by detainees upon release. While Madison County Sheriff Jeff Connor mentioned that detainee identification issues were not widespread in his jurisdiction, he welcomed efforts to eliminate barriers to former detainees’ access to jobs and services.

According to Sgt. James Hendricks, a spokesperson for the department, in St. Clair County, detainees without proper identification faced challenges cashing checks issued upon discharge. To address this, the sheriff’s department began issuing debit cards for one-time use, with fees covered by commissary profits.

Officials in both counties expressed openness to expanding the state ID program.

Scott Burnham, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Giannoulias, pointed to the success of the existing program in state prisons, where around 900 state IDs have been issued this year.

Additionally, a recent initiative was launched with state-run juvenile facilities to obtain identification for youth upon release.