Hungry and Broke but Have a Drug Felony? MO Still One of Few States That Says: "Starve"
"Most people returning home from prison had been struggling in some significant way prior to their involvement with the criminal justice system," the study says. "Surveys consistently show that substantial proportions of people who are incarcerated have histories of substance abuse, mental health issues, homelessness, or physical or sexual abuse. Without proper support, these individuals may continue to struggle with similar issues upon their release from prison."
Some effects of the TANF and SNAP ban, according to the study:
• It's already hard to get a job as a felon, but no access to cash assistance or food stamps makes it even more difficult to secure the basics in order to find a job and get back on one's feet.
• Many drug felons have drug addictions and need to use treatment centers. However, treatment centers have long depended on TANF and SNAP programs to offset the costs of their own programs. No benefits means higher costs for drug treatment, which means fewer people can get help.
• Children of drug felons are able to get benefits, but because their parent is not, the total amount of assistance a household receives is decreased, which inevitably impacts children.
• Public health is impacted because overall nutrition is worse and women are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as prostitution, to obtain money, which can lead to increased HIV cases.
This has been an issue in Missouri for a few years now, with several attempts by activists and lawmakers to get the ban lifted. And in 2008, a Missouri group put out a study that echoed many of the points argued by the Sentencing Project. The idea has had support from both parties, but always seems to get stuck somewhere in committee.
Rep. Bonnaye Mims
Most recently, Rep. Bonnaye Mims (D-Kansas City) has proposed lifting the food stamp ban.
"I'm not saying that drugs is a good thing, but they have served their time," Mims said, according to the El Dorado Springs Sun. "They served their punishment for whatever it is that happened. They deserve a chance."
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