MORE2 public meeting on Ban the Ban
Metropolitan Congregations United and Metro Organization for Racial and
Economic Equity are celebrating the passage of a bill in the Missouri Legislature that will lift the life-time ban on food stamps the state imposes on persons with drug felony convictions
The lifetime ban on SNAP benefits was lifted with bipartisan support (27-3 in the state Senate, 122-19
in the state House). All that’s needed is Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s
signature and the road to rehabilitation will have one less
obstacle. One legislator stood on the floor to declare that she
had changed her mind on the issue and wanted to support those who were
doing their best to stay sober and out of prison.
Missouri is one of only nine states with a lifetime ban on food stamps
for people with past drug related felony convictions. This is the only felony classification that has been
excluded from public benefits.
Supporters of the bill declare that those targeted have served their time and
taking away access to public benefits will only hurt them further.
While many with a felony on their record struggle to find jobs, the
added burden of "food insecurity" only makes things more difficult. In
addition, both hunger and economic stress are known factors that reduce
rates of rehabilitation.
In addition, treatment and rehabilitation centers often depend on
public benefit programs to offset the costs of their already limited
programs. Without these benefits for their clients, the cost for drug
treatment can be even higher, making it even less accessible.
One barrier might be that many Missouri legislators tend to view drug
crime as an 'urban' and male issue. However, with Missouri as a
national leader in meth production, this affects rural areas, as well.
Additionally, according to a study by the Sentencing
women are currently adversely affected by the ban. In Missouri,
25% of women in prison are incarcerated on drug crimes;
they also make up 86%
of TANF recipients and are twice as likely as men to receive food
Instead of worrying about how to take care of the basics, which can
lead to poor and desperate choices, lifting the lifetime ban will allow
people to focus on recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. As
Susan Sneed, MCU Organizer, says, “Not all ex-felons need food stamps,
but what kind of a society are we to deny food to a person just in case
he/she might misuse that help?"
--Sarah Caldera Wimmer