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Senate Farm Bill to deny food assistance to anyone convicted of certain federal or state crimes

The United States Senate has agreed to Sen. David Vitter’s Amendment 1056 to the 2013 Farm Bill. The amendment would deny food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) for life to anyone convicted of certain federal or state crimes.If the amendment makes it out of the Senate, it may be too late to keep it from becoming law. And like previous successful efforts to impose these kinds of devastating barriers on people with criminal records and their families, we may be fighting to roll this back for decades to come.

Your help is needed to make sure the amendment does not make it into the final Farm Bill!

What You Can Do

Call your Senator’s office TODAY! Time is of the essence because the bill is before the full Senate now and Sen. Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said she hopes to finish the bill by the end of this week. Let them know how harmful this policy would be and that you hope they will ask Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill package to remove or limit Amendment 1056.

Suggested Message:

Amendment 1056 to the Farm Bill is counter-productive and will harm children and families as well as individuals who long ago paid their debt to society. I hope the Senator will encourage Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill to:

  • Eliminate the food assistance ban in Amendment 1056, or, if that is not possible,
  • Narrow the scope of the covered crimes, and
  • Limit the duration of the ban to a set and reasonable number of years, and
  • Provide a process to receive a waiver from the ban by demonstrating rehabilitation.

Contact Info for your Senators’ offices can be found by going to the U.S. Senate website

Why It’s Important 

Not only would Amendment 1056 create a lifetime ban on food assistance for individuals with certain types of convictions, it would also reduce the amount of assistance received by a family with a member convicted of a covered offense, imposing potential food shortages on children and families everywhere. Because the amendment is retroactive and creates a lifelong ban on food assistance, it has the potential to devastate thousands of individuals and their families, leaving them without food security and prompting individuals leading law-abiding lives to resort back to criminal activity to feed their families.

As you know, individuals with criminal records already confront thousands of Federal, state, and local legal and policy barriers to employment, education, housing, and public benefits. Because of these and other barriers, unemployment is particularly high among this population, and many individuals struggle to provide for themselves and their families. The Attorney General has asked federal agencies and state attorneys general to reduce or eliminate collateral consequences that do not enhance public safety, such as barriers to public assistance that make it harder for people to meet their most basic needs. Amendment 1056 would add another such counter-productive barrier to the federal code.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. td777 says:

    Is it me, or does anyone else see this as being akin to euthanasia for those who are also being forced homeless when they get out of prison?

    Thousands of RSO’s in California have been forced by parole to be homeless because of Jessica’s Law for years, including myself. Many of them depend on assistance so they can at least have something to eat since parole restrictions and public perceptions make getting work nearly impossible. The most popular form of work I saw during my time on parole was “canning,” which means digging into trash dumpsters to collect cans and bottles to redeem at recycling centers. This also happens to be illegal in many cities, making it a parole violation.

    The passage of this into law would be like a death sentence to a lot of these who depend on them to survive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +11

    • Anonymous says:

      I was forced homeless twice on parole thanks to Jessica’s law. I was denied food stamps because of my status, and it had NOTHING do with the law. My case worker denied me saying i didn’t qualify. Later i saw him at a store in town, he was with his children. He told me don’t come around me in public, your a child molester.

      The reality is, i’m not a child molester, but i am listed as a sex offender.

      If this passes, then there is a valid argument to strike down the portions that are unconstitutional.

      * Edited *

      * Please refrain from encouraging illegal activity * Moderator

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +1

    • Joe says:

      No, not a death sentence by starvation…. you will get fed, but it will be in a prison setting.

      When I became interested in the subject a while back I was talking with a lawyer who educated me about all the laws and restrictions that are in place, that the public and even some 290s have no idea exist.

      My reaction was – wow, they REALLY want people back in prison. The attorney said disagreed and offered that the true goal was to get people to pack up and move away. Where to? Doesn’t matter, but out of their city and / or state, hopefully this country.

      After reading about this bill I believe my initial conclusion was correct. With all the laws in place that make it virtually impossible to live and work, what better way to ensure someone resorting back to crime than to cut off their food supply? You can sleep in your car, you can sit and do nothing all day, but you cannot eat air.

      Time to invest in a private prison company???

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +11

      • Anonymous Nobody says:

        Actually, you are closer to the real reason than your attorney. For instance, New Jersey, the home of Megan’s Law, was quite upset to find some SORs were moving to nearby New York State, where the horrors of SOR were not quite as draconian as in New Jersey. New Jersey was quite upset about this, the thought that they could not longer beat up the SORs.

        So, New Jersey specifically invented lifetime parole, because when on parole, the SOR can’t move any place without the prior consent of the parole officer — who in New Jersey is not going to give that consent to move out of state. They specifically want to KEEP the SORs in New Jersey so they can continue to beat up on them as harshly as they want.

        Since New Jersey did that, some other states also have started lifetime parolee for SORs. The California Legislature considered implementing lifetime parole only a couple-few years ago. Fortunately, it did not fly — that time. But don’t be surprised if it comes back again. At least with parole, even the US Supreme Court has no flexibility to say it is not punishment, so it will never be able to be implemented retroactively. But any new offenders will be subject to it.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +4

  2. m h says:

    I believe our society is made up of the most judgmental, vindictive, hateful and asinine people on planet earth. People make mistakes! Most religions, especially Christianity, teach that humans are prone to mistakes because of a fallen nature inherited from the original human pair. Atheists believe that humans are prone to natural instincts which compel us to be selfish (see Dawkins).

    So when someone makes a mistake that proceeds from their fallen nature, or from natural instincts, we want to deny them the same civil liberties that are enjoyed by people who cheat on their taxes, cheat on their spouses, prone to alcoholism, liars, backstabbers and so forth…we live in an extremely morally relativistic society. Its sickening…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +9

  3. Joe says:

    While certainly not an expert on the subject, it is my understanding that things like public infrastructure and public assistance programs are funded with general tax revenue, on a local, state or federal level.

    I think it is safe to assume that most persons with a criminal record are, or at least have been, tax payers at one point in their lifetime. Even RSOs.

    To deny a tax payer the benefits that their taxes pay for – from utilizing public recreational space to not being eligible to receive general welfare benefits, all due to an action in the past – is “Taxation without Representation”.

    Revolutions have been started and (formerly) great nations were founded over this concept.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +11

    • Joe says:

      Expanding on my comment above… prohibiting tax payers required to register as SOs from utilizing public, tax payer funded recreation areas is justified by the government’s interest and duty to protect the public from potential and clearly identifiable threats. Okay. Far fetched and absurd, but okay.

      What exactly is the basis for denying people with certain convictions from welfare benefits as basic as food? Benefits that are funded by the tax payer and are available to all based on need.

      Unless a public safety interest can be proven (proving that a hungry registrant is a lesser threat to the public than a fed one – try and wrap you head around that!), this is pure vindictiveness and punishment.

      Given that this bill will be retroactive, it should be clear to a first grader that this is Ex Post Facto punishment at its finest. Constitution, anyone?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +14

      • Anonymous Nobody says:

        The problem with your entire argument is that you are trying to be sensible, logical, honest and decent. These qualities have nothing to do with why this action is being taken.

        And that’s the real problem. Unfortunately, mh’s assessment is real.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +8

    • Watson says:

      @Joe, FORMERLY is right.

      - one out of every five households now receiving food stamps.
      - an increase of 889,154 families from January 2012
      - A record number 47,692,896 Americans are now enrolled in the program
      - food stamp rolls in America recently surpassed the population of Spain

      http://cnsnews.com/blog/joe-schoffstall/record-number-households-food-stamps-1-out-every-5

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +2

  4. mike says:

    One of my first stops after I was released from prison was to get signed up for food stamps. It’s a critical step for those who are going through transition and reintegrating into society while seeking employment. This proposition doesn’t make sense from a logical stand point. When released, most people are reaching out for any assistance they can get legally that will prevent relapse.

    I think a reason we’re experiencing more people applying for welfare is not necessarily unemployment, but lack of quality employment. As more corporations are seeking larger profits for their shareholders on Wal*Street and board members they’re “trimming the fat” so to speak. One way to do that is to employ more part timers and less full time employees. Full time employees usually get benefits that aren’t offered to the part timers. Many of these part timers qualify for government assistance. Maybe soon welfare will only be available to those who are less-gainfully employed. That’s part of the price we pay for rolling back the prices on Tchotchkies. Meanwhile the price of gas, meat, cheese, fruit, and other staples increase. We can’t afford to increase minimum wage, all the state labor unions will cry foul and demand that their members require the same percentage increase. The backlash would be more school and public safety cut backs as well as tax increases.

    Maybe we ought to give first time ex-felons $30,000 gate money so they can get an earnest start in society and possibly start a small business; consider the odds they’ll find gainful employment post release. It’s cheaper than the $48,000 it cost to warehouse them for a year.

    I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting a new job Monday. I’ve been working for this company through a temp agency for the last two months. They know of my conviction and are willing to give me a job based on my present performance and not my past. It’s taken me ten months since my last job to land this one and it will feel good to have job security and a structured schedule. I also look forward to being able to contribute monetarily again to this website and the great cause it stands for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +9

  5. LAMarshall says:

    I’d like to urge everyone who can to contact their federal Representatives to insure that they know that this amendment to the Farm Bill is counterproductive. The reasons, as many here have stated, include the recidivism potential, with it’s associated costs. The costs are 1. to the victim of the crime, 2. to the local law enforcement, 3. to the judicial system, 4. the much higher cost of feeding and housing associated with imprisonment.

    The cost of supplying food stamps is relatively meager when compared to the other costs.

    Also, the collateral damage to families is well worth mentioning. The innocent members of the household should not have to suffer for any desire for revenge via removal of food stamps.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down +4

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