May 25, 2019

New Report calls for End of Lifetime Ban on SNAP over Drug Convictions

By Evelyn C. Castillo December 09, 2013

foodstampsA repeal of the 90s era lifetime ban on welfare benefits, including food stamps, over felony drug convictions is long overdue, according to a new report by the The Sentencing Project.


President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996, which prohibits anyone convicted of a felony drug offense from receiving assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) or food stamps, now called SNAP.  The Sentencing Project, an advocacy organization, says the ban adversely and disproportionately affects minority communities, including Latinos.  Women and children, whom are oftentimes the ones that need it the most, are especially impacted.


While federal data shows that whites, African Americans and Latinos use drugs at “roughly comparable rates,” blacks and Latinos make up 40.7 percent and 21.1 percent of the prison population over drug crimes, respectively, according to the report.


“Thus the racial/ethnic disparities in drug offender incarceration produced by the interaction of law enforcement and sentencing policies through the war on drugs then translate into a disproportionate impact of the felony drug ban,” states the report.


Furthermore, the report says that the ban has not deterred drug abuse and that “there is some evidence that barring individuals with felony drug convictions from receiving food stamp may have troubling public health consequenes.” An estimated 180,000 women have been impacted by the ban from 1996 to 2011.


“As we have seen, the felony drug ban potentially affects hundreds of thousands of women (as well as children and men) over the course of their lifetimes, well after most will have completed serving their felony sentences,” says the report.


Authors Marc Mauer and Virginia McCalmont say that Congress should repeal the ban or at a minimum states should revise their policies to allow some individuals to regain eligibility for SNAP/TANF after completing some sort of drug education or treatment program.


“The ban has not been shown to decrease drug use, nor is it necessary to reduce welfare fraud, which is proscribed by other sections of the United States Code,” the authors say. “Furthermore, by raising a new substantial barrier to successful reentry, the ban may actually harm public safety and public health, while contributing to swollen prison populations.”

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