Searching for His Identity

Casey Holden has a job, a bank account and an identification card issued by the State of Colorado. But in the eyes of many government agencies and private employers, he doesn't quite exist. He lacks the essential paper trail.

Holden, 26, lost track of his vital personal records — birth certificate, Social Security card — over the past decade, most of which has been spent in prisons of one kind or another, including the state supermax. Now that he's out on parole, a journey back to Citizenville he's letting us follow by blog (see previous entries here), he's finding out just how much of a nonperson a former prisoner can be.

Holden has a Colorado Department of Corrections ID card, but it's regarded as something less than proof positive in this era of heightened identity-theft hysteria. "It makes no sense," he says. "You can't get no more state than this. You just look up my mug shot on the DOC website, and I'm there."

His driver's license expired long ago. Under tightened state rules, getting a new one has been an experience that Kafka's bureaucracy-bedeviled Joseph K. could appreciate. He's had to track down a copy of his birth certificate, replace his Social Security card and wade through forms and more forms. Fortunately, Mesa State College accepted his DOC ID when he enrolled there, and the student ID and his expired license got him an account with a local bank.

"It's really difficult to get ID," he marvels.

So difficult that the state legislature is now considering House Bill 1313, which, among other things, would deem a state prison ID card and a Social Security card as sufficient documentation for obtaining a driver's license. (The bill was laid over in the state senate on Wednesday; a pdf version can be found here ).

With a driver's license, Holden hopes to move up from his current pizza-slinging job to possible employment in the Western Slope oil fields at $27 an hour. The parole authorities frown on their charges taking such jobs because it makes it harder for them to report promptly for random drug tests. Never mind that oil-field workers submit random drug tests to their employers anyway; the state demands its cup of urine, too. But Holden is still hopeful some accommodation can be made.

"I like where I'm working, but I need a better-paying job at some point," he says. "I'm ready to move on." —Alan Prendergast

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