The Hawaii Department of Public Safety is modifying an old policy of throwing away inmates’ belongings — including forms of identification. Now, they’ll at least keep identification on file.

“The plan is to have their identification placed in their files so it is accessible (for the offenders) and will be accessible to them when they get ready to leave the facilities,” said Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, director of the Department of Public Safety, which oversees jails and prisons.

Under the old policy, inmates who were incarcerated for more than 30 days lost all their belongings. This was a particular problem for homeless who were arrested carrying all of their identification with them, including state-issued IDs, birth certificates, social security cards and immigration paperwork, among other documents.

Without identification, homeless inmates often found it difficult to find shelter and employment, homeless service providers said.

The new policy, which takes effect at the end of March, mandates the department retain identification after the 30-day mark.

Curtis Kropar, whose technology nonprofit, Hawaiian Hope, has worked with homeless, says he’s known homeless people who have entered the corrections system, and then lost their identification while serving time.

“I can not possibly imagine how someone or an organization can begin to justify just tossing out something so obviously important as all of their ID and documents,” he said.

“People complain about and criticize the homeless continuously for ‘losing’ their ID and documents. Here we find out it is and was just part of the normal policy to willingly discard something so important,” said Kropar.

Maesaka-Hirata said the policy was a long-standing practice that was instituted before the Lingle administration, although she is not sure when.

She said the department is committed to taking proactive steps to change detrimental policies for released offenders.

“What prompted the change is what the offenders need to make their re-entry process smoother and more successful. We want to be proactive,” she said.

Maesaka-Hirata guessed that the original rationale behind the policy had to do with space limitations: “Part of (the reason) was property — they just considered it excess property. The facilities only have so much space,” she said.