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Oklahoma Lawmaker Advocates for Inmate Driver's License Restoration

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OKLAHOMA CITY - In a bid to aid inmates' reintegration into society and reduce recidivism rates, Oklahoma Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany, has authored House Bill (HB) 1566. The bill aims to restore driver's licenses for certain inmates preparing to leave incarceration by directing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) to provide state-issued IDs, REAL ID-compliant IDs, or REAL ID-compliant driver's licenses upon their release.

According to Stark, providing qualifying inmates with a REAL ID-compliant license is a necessary step in helping those who have served their time move on with their lives. "We've made tremendous progress in lowering our recidivism rate, but to keep that momentum going, we must equip people who've paid their debt to society with every possible tool to succeed upon reentry," she said.

The bill is part of the larger Restorative Workforce Initiative, a collection of bills passed in recent years to address recidivism and the employment gap. The initiative aims to empower individuals to find employment before and immediately after incarceration.

Stark is joined by Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, and Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, in supporting the Restorative Workforce Initiative. Hill, who collaborated with Stark to develop the 2021 Sarah Stitt Act, emphasized the importance of stable income for success after prison. "Having a stable income is the largest indicator of success for someone leaving prison, but the unemployment rate for justice-involved Oklahomans is nearly five times the state average," he explained. "The Restorative Workforce Initiative is comprised of common-sense solutions to help people who've turned their lives around and spur economic growth simultaneously."

HB 1566 is currently assigned to the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, with a deadline of March 2 for passing bills through the committee. As Oklahoma lawmakers continue to debate the merits of the bill, its supporters hope it will ultimately serve as a crucial component of the state's efforts to reduce recidivism and aid in the successful reentry of inmates into society.