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Hungry and Broke but Have a Drug Felony? MO Still One of Few States That Says: "Starve"

Categories: Drugs

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Wikimedia/Skiier02

For felons, getting a job is tough, so getting money for food isn't easy. Food stamps can help tide one over until some benevolent employer offers them a job. But people who have drug felonies are out of luck because Missouri bans them from getting food stamps.

Missouri is one of only nine states that have a full ban on both cash assistance and food stamp benefits for people convicted of a drug felony. Only drug felons are affected by the ban, and a new study argues that women and children are disproportionately affected.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law a massive welfare reform bill that included a federal ban on cash assistance (TANF) and food stamps (SNAP) for anybody convicted of a drug felony -- no matter how long ago the felony occurred or what drug the felony was for. States were allowed to opt-out of the law and many did. But twelve states still enforce the ban on TANF and nine states, including Missouri, enforce a ban on both TANF and SNAP.

A new study by the Sentencing Project, "A Lifetime of Punishment," looks at the effects the cash assistance and food stamp ban has had on women, who are most affected.

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One of the main points of the study is that over the past 30 or so years, the prison population has exploded, largely due to drug crimes and this has had a huge negative impact on women. Just over 25 percent of women in prison are in for a drug crime. And women make up 85.9 percent of all TANF recipients and are twice as likely as men to receive food stamps. So any ban on food stamps for drug felons means women are going to be more likely to be affected.

See also: 20 Years for $40 of Crack, 10 Years for 2 Oz. of Pot? It Happens in St. Louis, Not Just Out West

And although the past 30 years has seen more people being sent to prison than at any time in history, women have been sent to prison for drug crimes has risen faster than men. From 1980 to 2010, the number of women in prison rose by 646%, compared to a 419% increase for men nationwide, according to the study.

In Missouri, those numbers are even greater. According to the Women's Prison Association, the Show-Me state had 158 female prisoners in 1977. By 2004, that number jumped to about 2,500 - a 1,484 percent increase, more than double the nation's average and good for eight-highest in the country. Today, there are about 10,500 women in Missouri who can't get food stamps because of a drug felony.

The study explains how being a felon makes it more difficult to get a job and obtain loans and grants for education. And when one adds "harder to get food" to that mix, things just get worse.

Continue reading for more effects of a food stamps ban for drug felons, including those in recovery programs.


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18 comments
Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

Most of those drug laws that they run afoul of should be repealed. This is just yet another symptom

Jessica Mantia
Jessica Mantia

You say "most of them". I've received food stamps in the past, and I eventually worked my way up to no longer need them. I wasn't irresponsible with my money. Don't lump everyone in one group.

Jeremy J Whaley
Jeremy J Whaley

I used to be proud to be from St. Louis now I am just happy to be in Seattle.

Steven Pinkerton
Steven Pinkerton

Children still get stamps and those kids get free food at school, both breakfast and lunch. Maybe the cigarettes, beer and drugs should fall off their grocery list and they could afford the essentials, not hot fries and juice drinks, etc. You are making this out to be much worse than it really is. I see reality every night I go to work in the hood. The reality is, most are irresponsible with the money they get and then cry wolf to get more!

Steven Pinkerton
Steven Pinkerton

Just over 25 percent of women in prison are in for a drug crime. And women make up 85.9 percent of all TANF recipients and are twice as likely as men to receive food stamps.

Steven Pinkerton
Steven Pinkerton

When does personal responsibility, not only of the individual, but of the individual's family and friends ever kick in??? It is not my personal responsibility to fund government social programs that benefits politicians. That is redistribution of wealth, which IS socialism. It is my responsibility as an individual who believes in God to help those in need with a hand up, not a hand out! If there are no consequences for anyone's actions, nobody will ever be FORCED to be responsible and the end of freedom will come sooner, rather than later! Why do you think there is no more sense of community? Because we don't depend on one another any more, we depend on government to do what it is our duty to do for one another! That is abdicating our responsibility and diluting our freedoms out of sheer laziness! Help your neighbor, family and friends and we will no longer need welfare!!!

Alex Rathgeb
Alex Rathgeb

Good idea...take folks who already have shown a willingness to break the rules to fill a "need," and then give them a real need like starvation. Gee, I wonder what happens next? I'm not for handouts, but at some point, especially for non-violent offenders, enough punishment already...the State needs to let it go at some point...Geez.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

and we all know how well that turns out.

Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

This is nothing but revenge, and it makes no sense otherwise.

Matt Weaver
Matt Weaver

Right or not making it hard for someone to get a job because of some non violent crime they committed when they were a teenager that may he a good start.

DoucheMcGee
DoucheMcGee topcommenter

So people that commit violent felonies still can get these benefits? kinda crazy - they should all lose them.

Orlan Brown
Orlan Brown

So 5 years incarceration then 1 year probation and no food stamps for life? At some point on this timeline, the debt owed to society is paid. Sounds like institutionalized discrimination to me. When someone is released from prison, they have "earned" their second chance!

Lynn Pevey
Lynn Pevey

Why not instead of giving felons free stuff we make them earn it for their second chance and pass better federal tax incentives to businesses who give felons a second chance at jobs and those felons who remain financially independent for a period of time plus pay their child support in a timely manner??? I think that would be a better alternative than the state to just be expected to hand out free meal tickets for those who need a good swift kick to the arse above all else with their stupidity to get locked up for crap in the first place. We need to help redefine our family role models especially those who have family members that are or have been incarcerated for crimes. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day...Teach a man to fish and he can eat forever. ;)

aaronmccoy242
aaronmccoy242 topcommenter

They should definitely get food stamps........  And guns, give them guns too.  Also, to better communicate with their families the govt should issue free smartphones and free unlimited data plans.  In exchange all you have to do is wear shirts that say "I am a victim, accountable for none of my actions" 

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