DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County Jail is helping inmates get ready for life on the outside.
Tuesday, 44 inmates received government-issued photo identification cards thanks to a Florida Licensing on Wheels bus that traveled to the jail..
The ID cards, which are given to the inmates once they're out, are paid for by commissary and phone revenue and issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Once they've served their time, inmates will be able to use the ID cards to legally drive and apply for jobs or public assistance.
Inmates who qualify may apply for either a driver's license or a government-issued photo ID.
"They send in their request, asking to either get a driver's license or an ID card," said Deann Bertram, vocational programs manager. "If they are ID compliant, we put them on the list."
If they don't meet ID criteria — such as not having a birth certificate, for instance — the jail can request a duplicate. Inmates with outstanding court or traffic fines are only able to receive a photo ID, not a driver's license.
"If they're born in Florida, (a copy of a birth certificate) is a $9 fee," Bertram said. "I can send off for it, it's going to be sent here to the jail and then when they're released we give them their birth certificates."
Corey Dobridnia, public information officer for the Walton County Sheriff's Office, said that some inmates don't even realize they're eligible for an ID.
"The people who are arrested, we've already verified their identification, so in a sense you could say it's a little bit easier for them (than some citizens) to do it because we already have all their information," Dobridnia said.
Clint Holland, the day-shift supervisor at the jail, said he thinks the program is going well and inmates are excited by the opportunity.
"I think it gives them a head start when they get out," Holland said. "A lot of them don't have the means to go, or the means to do anything when they get out. They don't have IDs to purchase things, cash a check or open bank accounts, and this gives them just a big head start on that.
"Hopefully, it'll stop a lot of them from coming back in," he added.
Melinda Martin, an inmate at the Walton County Jail, said she hopes having a license will help her get a job once she's served her time.
"I think it's cool that they do this for the inmates," Martin said.