The Building Blocks Of Reentry: Getting Id & Other Key Documents, Voting & Civic Participation


“When I got my Driver’s License after getting out of prison, I cried. I felt like a person again, with my own identity — not just a number being yelled out in prison. It was one of the best moments of my reentry.”

– Formerly incarcerated woman, after spending 3 years incarcerated

Getting ID & Other Key Documents, Voting & Civic Participation

The BUILDING BLOCKS OF REENTRY: ID & VOTING CHAPTER explains how to access key building blocks of reentry including: how to get identification (ID) and other key documents, voting rights, and Selective Service registration. ID is proof of who you are — your identity. Government agencies, workplaces, service providers, schools, and other institutions issue ID cards for people who are members. You will want ID and other key documents so that you can participate in all the services that your community has to offer, so that you can legally drive, and so that you can prove who you are. Voting is another building block of reentry, allowing people to participate in government elections and decisions. Finally, Selective Service registration for the military is required of most men in the U.S., and is critical for going back to school in reentry.

DISCLAIMER – YOUR RESPONSIBILITY WHEN USING THIS GUIDE: When putting together the Roadmap to Reentry: A California Legal Guide, we did our best to give you useful and accurate information. However, the laws change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. We do not always have the resources to make changes to this informational material every time the law changes. If you use information from the Roadmap to Reentry legal guide, it is your responsibility to make sure that the law has not changed and applies to your particular situation. If you are incarcerated, most of the materials you need should be available in your institution’s law library. The Roadmap to Reentry guide is not intending to give legal advice, but rather legal information. No attorney-client relationship is created by using any information in this guide. You should always consult your own attorney if you need legal advice specific to your situation.

WHAT WILL I LEARN in the ID & Voting Chapter?

General Tips for Getting ID


  1. 3

    Adapted from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education after Prison, 20 (July 2010), available at

  1. What are identification documents (ID), and why are they important?
  2. Why do I need identification documents (ID)?
  3. I have a prison or jail ID. Is that enough to identify myself?
  4. What are the most important forms of ID to have?
  5. I don’t have any ID. Where and when can I start?
  6. I have used different names (“aliases”). What name is best to use on my ID?
  7. Can I legally change my name?
  8. I believe my identity was stolen while I was incarcerated. What can I do?

    1. What is a birth certificate, and why would I need it?
    2. What is the general process for getting a copy of my birth certificate?
    3. How do I get a document “notarized”?
    4. Why do I want an “authorized, certified” copy?
    5. If You Were Born in the U.S.—Different Situations:

    6. If You Were Adopted and Don’t Know Where You Were Born:

    7. If You Were Born Outside of the U.S.A. — Different Situations:


    1. What is a Social Security number (SSN) and what is a Social Security card? What is the difference and do I need both?
    2. Why do I need to know my SSN?
    3. I don't think I ever got a SSN. Can I get one now?
    4. Pre-release Planning — Getting a Social Security Card While Incarcerated:

    5. Post-release — Getting a Social Security Card After You’re Out:

  11. California State ID, DRIVER LICENSE & MUNICIPAL ID

    1. Which one is right for me — a State ID Card or a Driver License? What’s the difference?
    2. I am currently incarcerated. Can I apply for a California state ID or a California Driver license?
    3. What is the CAL-ID program?
    4. In what facilities is the CAL-ID program available?
    5. Who is eligible for the CAL-ID program?
    6. I think I am eligible for the CAL-ID program. How do I apply?
    7. Post-release — Getting a California State ID or Driver License After You’re Out

    8. Driver License Suspensions & Revocations

  12. Undocumented Immigrants: Some Options for ID

    1. I am an undocumented person? Can I get official ID?
    2. Can I get an “Undocumented Person” California driver license?
    3. Can the police report me to U.S. immigration officials for using an AB 60 “Undocumented Person” driver license in California?
    4. Whate are the other limited forms of ID for undocumented people?
    5. What other resources are there for undocumented people and immigrants in California?

    1. Why would a U.S. Passport be useful? Why might I need one?
    2. Who is eligible for a U.S. Passport?
    3. How do I apply for a U.S. Passport—In person or by mail?
    4. How do I apply in person for a new U.S. Passport?
    5. How do I apply by mail for a renewal of my U.S. Passport?
  14. Tribal ID Card

    1. What is a tribal ID card and why would I need it?
    2. How do I get a tribal ID card?
    3. If I am registered with a tribe, will they have other identification documents on file for me or my family members?

    1. Why would I get a library card, and what are the benefits?
    2. How do I get a library card?
  16. Voting Rights & VOTER REGISTRATION

    1. Why register to vote?
    2. Who can register to vote in California?
    3. I have a criminal record. Can I register to vote in California?
    4. I lost my voting rights while in prison/on state parole. How do I regain my ability to vote?
    5. I don’t know my supervision status. How do I find out?
    6. What could happen if I voted in an election that I was not legally allowed to vote in?
    7. Registering to Vote in California:

    8. Voting on Election Day


    1. What is the Selective Service system, and why is it important?
    2. Who is required to register with the Selective Service?
    3. Who is not required to register with Selective Service?
    4. When do I register with the Selective Service?
    5. How do I register with the Selective Service?
    6. Issues with Selective Service Registration