Saturday, October 12, 2013

How to Guarantee 100 Percent Drug Offender Recidivism

Just starve them back to prison. It's working like a charm.

Maya Schenwar at Truthout:

With another cruel cutback in food stamps approaching November 1, we're reminded that many states ban stamps for ex-prisoners, who face a 50 percent unemployment rate, making prison the only sure place they won't starve.

As the debate rages over whether poor people deserve to eat, it's an apt time to acknowledge that in some states, the right to food stamps has long been denied to a large group of poor people: those with felony drug convictions.

The current national conversation around food rights is an exercise in heartlessness. Regardless of congressional action, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits - otherwise known as food stamps - will decrease sharply for all recipients on November 1, when a temporary boost expires. At that point, the SNAP allowance for a family of three will wither to about $1.40 per person, per meal. House Republicans recently pushed through an additional cut, which likely won't pass the Senate, but still reflects a sense of ingrained, oppressive disregard for the 47 million people on food stamps.

However, the drug felony ban, which renders untold numbers of Americans ineligible for SNAP, is no sneaky Republican plot. It came to us courtesy of President Clinton, who, true to his "wars" on both drugs and crime, signed off on the ban as part of his 1996 welfare "reform" law.


Fortunately, the 1996 law carries an opt-out clause, and 20 states have tossed the ban entirely. Yet in 10 states, anyone who has been convicted of a drug felony (mostly nonviolent offenses) is still out of luck - for life. Twenty more states (including Kentucky) have set up a partial ban: People with drug offenses can earn back the "privilege" of receiving SNAP benefits through mandatory drug treatment. At first glance, that modification encourages positive steps, but in reality, it is infantilizing, inhumane and unjust. People who continue to use drugs - or to struggle with drug addiction - should not have to forfeit food in exchange. Plus, it's a whole lot harder to recover from addiction if you're struggling to eat.


An ex-prisoner who can't get a job and can't afford food may well return to the activities that got them locked up in the first place, to survive. Often, that means selling drugs, perpetuating a long cycle of recidivism and re-offending.

Ironically, these SNAP-ineligible people are returning from a place where food was free - a place where, although meals may have been meager and sometimes moldy, they knew that every day, they would eat. That place would be prison.
Even if you think anyone caught with a bud in her pocket deserves to either starve or stay locked up for life, do you think her children should suffer?  If she can't get SNAP, neither can her kids.

Denying food stamps to drug offenders who have served their time helps no one, injures many and costs the taxpayers billions.  The only reason to do it is to prevent poor people from ever becoming self-sufficient.

Again, at the cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars every year.

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