Getting a fresh start with a new ID or driver’s license

Sample Iowa driver's licenseIt’s just a plastic card, but for those who don’t have a state-issued driver’s license or an ID card, many doors may be closed. One of the things our customers need most is official identification. Opening a bank account, renting an apartment, visiting a doctor or hospital, picking up necessary medications from a pharmacy, or applying for a job all require you to prove you are who you say you are using a state-issued ID or driver’s license.

Many people don’t think about how not having a state-issued identification card or driver’s license can create significant hurdles in navigating everyday society for someone who has been released from prison. For several years the Iowa Department of Transportation has been working with the Iowa Department of Corrections to help people who are incarcerated obtain a copy of their driving record and a list of steps each person needs to clear up any issues. Once released, the individual would take that list to one of the DMV locations to try and sort out the issues.

In 2020, a pilot program expanded on this service by adding an Iowa DOT “mobility manager” embedded in the Newton Correctional Release Center. Julie Johnson, a supervisor for the program, shared, “The mobility manager’s role is to assist individuals preparing for release in obtaining a state-issued identification card or even a driver’s license, so they can get a jump start on their new life in society once they are released from prison. We see this program as an important opportunity for this often-forgotten community, by truly bridging a gap in getting them one step closer to being fully prepared for release and success.”   

She continued, “People who are in prison many times have complicated driving histories that can be difficult to sort out. While it was a good first step to print out a list of things they need to do to clear up a driving record, we didn’t provide that additional, personalized, one-on-one assistance of walking them through what can sometimes be a complicated process.”

Jose&BenWhen Ben Kreger saw the job posting for a mobility manager, he was already an award-winning Examiner of the Year in our Cedar Rapids service center. He explained, “I saw this as an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Even though I would be working in Newton and Mitchellville for this pilot project, and the pandemic had just started, I wanted to give it a shot.”

For the first part of the pilot program, Julie and Ben continued to work on defining the roles and responsibilities of the mobility manager position, with some of the work being done remotely due to the pandemic. When pandemic restrictions eased in the prison system, Ben was able to see more individuals in his office in Newton.

Ben’s job is to not only provide a list of what each person needs to do to get a driver’s license or ID card, but he also works with them individually to make sure each person understands what needs to be done to be successful in reaching each goal in getting their driving privileges restored.

This is an opportunity to meet each individual where they are, with no judgment, and help them.  The mobility management program focuses on these key things when working one on one with each individual:

  1. Review their driving record.
  2. Develop a plan to have their driving privileges returned prior to release, which may include establishing payment plans for fines and sanctions they have received.
  3. Receive an ID or driver’s license prior to release.
  4. Develop a transportation plan prior to release should they not be able to drive, do not want to drive again, or will not have access to a vehicle.

He continued, “This program is designed to fill a gap that we were seeing. You can’t just hand someone a list of things to do and expect that they’ll know how to achieve each step. That’s where I come in. My office inside the prison is just like a mini-DMV. I have regular office hours where people can just walk in, or I can set up an appointment for someone who might have a more complicated set of circumstances. Word spread quickly, so when everyone found out that I can do any task they would ask for in a DMV, I stay very busy.”

Because his office functions just like any DMV, Ben can help explain the driving record and walk each person through the process to get a legal ID or driver’s license. He said, “Some people need help setting up a payment plan for fines or applying for a temporary restricted license. Things can spiral out of control pretty quickly if someone is cited for driving without a valid license. The goal is to help people get all this taken care of before they are released so they have what they need to be successful.”

The Iowa DOT established a second mobility management office at the women’s correctional facility in Mitchellville soon after the pandemic settled. Since then, offices have also been established within the 1st and 6th judicial districts, serving community-based correctional facilities in northeast and east central Iowa.

Ben admits the job can take some patience. He recalls one customer who had issues to clear up in Illinois before he could tackle his Iowa driving record. “He came into my office, and we called the Illinois DMV and stayed on the phone with them until we got things cleared up. It was complicated, but we were able to work through the issues. A year later I received an email from him thanking me for helping him. Knowing I can make a difference is what keeps me motivated.”

Julie added, “Ben’s servant leadership heart and attitude is what makes this program work so well. Since he started working with this pilot in 2020, he’s impacted so many lives. The people he helps have a solid path forward. He is a direct link and face of the Iowa DOT. He is helping break any negative pre-conceived ideas those he is serving may have had for years.”


Because of the success of the pilot program in Mitchellville and Newton, we are now able to expand the program, hiring two additional mobility managers who will work out of other facilities. We will soon be able to serve every correctional institution across the state.  The mobility manager program is a great example of entities partnering together to find creative solutions that truly meet the needs of our customers. Ben said, “I’m excited to work with the new mobility managers and see this program spread to all the correctional facilities in Iowa.”

Michelle KoberBen won't have to wait much longer for help. Michelle Kober, one of our new mobility managers, recently graduated from the Dept. of Corrections Academy. This is one of the requirements for our mobility managers to operate inside the correctional facility.  She will be serving in Newton, Mitchellville, and Clarinda correction facilities.  


Way to go, Ben! This is amazing!
Michelle - I know you'll be a great addition to the program!

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