Putting Together Your Release Preparation Folder

For every person that is being released back into the community, the B.O.P. likes for these individuals to have a release prep folder that they can take with them wherever they go. That way, no matter what situation you encounter, you will be ready. The major reason for this is for employment purposes. However, it can be used to obtain your driver’s license, apply for government benefits and more.

Your folder can be divided up into six categories. The ones I recommend are: Identification Documents, Educational Documents, Legal Documents, Financial Documents, Medical Records, and Miscellaneous Documents. The first we will look at are identification documents. With the passing of the First Step Act, the B.O.P. is now required to do everything in their power to assist inmates obtain vital documents at no cost to the inmate. These include a certified copy of your birth certificate, a social security card, driver’s license or state ID card, and resident alien card (if a non-citizen).

The easiest thing to obtain is your social security card. Every prison in the B.O.P. has a reentry affairs coordinator. His or her job is to assist inmates in obtaining the proper forms for this. Simply contact them via cop-out and tell them you need a Form SS-5 to obtain a copy of your social security card. The form is a one page form that can be mailed to the Social Security Administration and only takes about five minutes to fill out. If you have people on the outside, they can go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov and search for form SS-5 and download it and print it themselves.

After that is your birth certificate. The way to order these varies state-by-state and the prices (if you do have to pay for them) varies as well. The easiest way to request this is to provide your reentry affairs coordinator with your state of birth or you can visit http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/{statename}.htm. So for instance if you were born in Arkansas, the website would be http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/arkansas.htm or North Dakota would be http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2s/northdakota.htm and so forth.

Your driver’s license or state ID card is one of the hardest things to obtain. If your license is still valid, then it should be rather easy. However, most people’s license has either expired or been suspended or revoked. While some states will allow you to submit documentation and results from a recent eye exam, others may force you to take the entire course all over again in order to obtain your license or ID card. I was fortunate and my state allowed me to send a copy of my prison ID and an eye exam form and the required fee and my new license was sent to me in about two weeks. This was in 2015 and it’s valid until 2022!

If you are a former service member, having a copy of your DD-214 is extremely important. This shows your discharge status and can help you qualify for certain government benefits as well. The form needed to request your records is called a Standard Form 180. This form can be downloaded from http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html.

If you are a resident alien, contact your local immigration office for details on how to obtain copies of your “green card”.

The next category after your identification documents is Educational Documents. These include a copy of your high school diploma or GED, any college diplomas or transcripts you have, vocational school certificates, occupational or professional licenses, a copy of your B.O.P. education transcript and any certificates you have from classes completed while incarcerated.

It our next post, we will talk about legal and financial documents you should keep with you at all times while you are on supervised release. Look for that article this Friday.

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