Former drug offenders could qualify for cheap or free meals, if one Oakland member of the state Assembly has his way.
A term in jail or state prison means a lifetime ban from public assistance programs like food stamps. This means the 30,000 inmates to be released from the state's overcrowded prisons have yet another barrier to reentering society to overcome: they can't vote, many employers won't touch them, and they also aren't eligible for food stamps, so what does that leave them?
Oakland Assemblyman Sandré Swanson supports an end to the lifetime ban on participating in CalFresh benefits for nonviolent drug offenders, Oakland North reported.
Drug felons have been barred from public assistance since former President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.
Swanson feels giving former inmates at least one leg up will make them less likely to turn to crime again. "It's the right thing to do," he told Oakland North. "Instead of the state spending $50,000 to house one adult repeat offender for one year, I would rather use that money to provide needed funds to an entire third grade classroom."
Swanson's bill to end the ban on food stamps for drug offenders, AB 828, has been approved by the Assembly and awaits a hearing in the state Senate.
Supporters of the bill point out that other felons, such as people convicted of murder, assault and other violent crimes, can qualify for food stamps, but drug offenders are left out. Opponents of the bill say that food stamps won't help drug users' problems.