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MSM’s OpID Director, Phil Pierce, has worked for over three years to draft a Texas Senate Bill that could change the fate of some ex-offenders who are released with no ability to obtain a legal state issued ID. Texas Senate Bill 581 was passed by the Senate and is now in the House.

Please help to change the trajectory of the lives of those effected by the current law, and be a part of a small, yet important step toward a more restorative justice system for our community by supporting TX SENATE BILL 581.

Follow TX Senate Bill 581 here: 


 “I really want to get it right this time.”

Like many in their first few days out of prison, Dennis arrived at Main Street Ministries needing help to get an ID.  Without it, he will be unable to get a job, housing, or services that could help him to reintegrate positively into society. 

I began volunteering at MSM's Operation ID several years ago;it did not take long for me to begin to understand the significant challenges people in our community face as they attempt to rebuild their lives. All too often, hopes of a better future begin to fade away with each new barrier encountered on the journey. 

For some, the process is tedious but managable.  Still for others, the barriers they must face to get back on their feet are seemingly unsermountable.  One such issue that has been on the OpID radar for many years involves some ex-offenders who are released from prison with no ability to obtain a legal state issued ID.  

For the past three years Phil Pierce, the Director of "OpID", has worked with Senator John Whitmire’s office to draft Texas Senate Bill 581 to correct this problem.

The issue involves some released felons who were born with one name, but have lived their entire life under another name.  After being releasted from prison with no documentation and in the process of soliciting a birth certificate to obtain a state issued ID, they learn that their family had informally changed their name while they were still very young.  While all of their school documents, social security documents, and now prison documents show the name they have lived under, there is no birth certificate to match.  Without the birth certificate, they can not obtain the state issued ID.

Under the current law, the released or paroled felons cannot change their name through the courts until two years after discharge or two years after getting off parole. This means, for two years (or many more if on parole) they cannot get above-the-table employment, open a bank account, obtain housing or many other things necessary to rebuild their lives.

The law (Family Code section 45.103) was intended to prevent felons from running away from the name they used in their life as a criminal.   The change in the law would allow the released prisoner to continue to use the same name he has always used, get a job and turn his life around.

Senate Bill 581 is now in the TX House. It is a great testament to the dedication of volunteers that make up the OpID team who truly believe in second chances and commit their time each week to helping provide opportunities for others to create a better life.



More about Texas Senate Bill 581

Texas Senate Bill 581 was drafted to positively change the trajectory of the lives of the men and women we serve as well as the common good of our city.

Texas Family Law Code 45, Section 103 was enacted to prevent felons from running away from the name they used in their life as a criminal.  After a felon is released, they must wait two years to legally change their name; those released on parole, must wait two years after the completion of their parole. Those on lifetime parole have no ability to legally change their name.

The law has good intentions but it limits individuals from obtaining a legal state issued identification if they have used a name for the vast majority of their life (as indicated on school records, Social Security Records, Driver’s License, employment, and prison record etc.) that does not match the name on their birth certificate.

A single person, Miss Smith gives birth to a son named Billy Smith. She subsequently marries Mr. Jones and Billy grows up only knowing that he is Billy Jones. Billy’s name is never legally changed to Billy Jones, however he goes through life by the name Billy Jones which appears on his school records, Social Security records and eventually prison records.

After Billy is incarcerated, he is released without an identification. Upon reentry, he is unable to obtain a TX ID Card or Driver License because there is no birth certificate to match the other documentation he has to prove his identity. Without an official state issued ID card, he is unable to legally obtain a job, continue his education, open a bank account, rent an apartment or much of anything else. This does not allow him an opportunity for positive restoration and is a recipe for recidivism.

Senate Bill 581 Effect:

Allows an individual to change their birth name to a name they have used the majority of their life and is recorded on multiple official records including prison documents.

Preserves the restriction of an individual from changing their name from the one under which they were incarcerated.

Adoption of this bill into law is clearly in the interest of the public, Law Enforcement and the individual.