Ex-Drug Offenders Qualify for State Benefits

ex-drug-offendersSadly, incarceration has long gone hand and hand with addiction – a byproduct of America’s war on drugs. Until recently, people arrested and convicted for nonviolent drug offenses were not given the option of treatment and were required to serve lengthy sentences. Upon release, many of ex-offenders found limited options with regard to state assistance, making it difficult for such individuals to get by. In many states, ex-drug offenders are ineligible for welfare and food stamps.

The Times Are A-Changin

Fortunately, as draconian drug laws fade and lawmakers see the value of treatment over incarceration; many states have begun adopting more enlightened views with regards to addiction. A number of states are now allowing ex-drug offenders to qualify for state benefits (i.e. food stamps), The Wall Street Journal reports. Lifting the two-decade-old ban on benefits for people convicted of drug crimes is a huge step in the right direction.

Last year, both California and Missouri lifted their bans and Alabama and Texas followed this year. In August, a Congressional Research Service report found that in 12 states ex-offenders are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program, according to the article. Almost 24 states allow ex-offenders to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Starving Ex-Offenders

Rules barring former drug offenders from participating in state assistance programs stems from a law passed in 1996, the article reports. In 2013, a study found that more than 90 percent of recently released ex-drug offenders lacked reliable access to food, and more than a third said thatx in the last month they had gone and entire day without food.

“Should they be denied those benefits when that could help them get back on their feet again and be a productive member of society?” asked Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican representing Montgomery who sponsored the legislation.

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