Eliminating Food Stamps to Former Prisoners

English: Logo of the .

Congress unanimously passed an amendment to the Farm Bill, to bar some people convicted of violent crimes from food stamps.  States can’t opt out of it like the ban on people with drug convictions.

This is what I emailed my Senator, David Vitter, although I am not allowed to vote for or against him, who sponsored this rider:

“Considering that LA is the incarceration capital of the world, I am surprised that only 1700 people who were in prison could access Food Stamps during the 3 year period cited by the Senator. There are 45,000 people on probation and parole. So even if these people were recently involved in the justice system, and still serving a sentence, this would only be 4% of people getting some food assistance, it is no wonder recidivism is so hard to reduce.

I received Food Stamps for about 5 months while on parole. It was a crucial help at a critical time. I have since paid thousands of dollars in fees to the justice system. I have paid thousands in taxes. I will ultimately pay about six figures to the Senator’s own alma mater: Tulane Law School. Those of us who committed a violent crime are not inherently “dangerous” for life, but I recognize that there are some people who would like to not see us succeed. This bill will surely pass, as will many like it, and some of us will succeed nonetheless. However, it takes a lot of sincerity out of the purported efforts (fed/state/local) to “help” us get our lives together. So while it is understandable that some people will never accept us in their neighborhoods, they should also understand those who do not trust any governmental efforts to rehabilitate and reenter. Without that trust, those programs will be no more than an occasional photo-op.

I respectfully request the Senator to reconsider his approach to Food Stamps. A month of benefits = 2 days of what the federal government pays to incarcerate someone.”

Who remembers the woman who lied about her conviction in order to get Food Stamps for her children?  She is in prison and the kids are eligible for the program now that they are children of a prisoner.

Kafka, eat your heart out.

About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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