Lift Food Stamp Restrictions for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

Target: President Obama

Goal: Eliminate food stamp bans for non-violent drug felons in all 50 states.

The government has restricted access to food stamps for people who may need them the most for nearly two decades. In an ill-conceived effort to advance the war on drugs, a welfare reform measure in 1996 prevented felony drug offenders from ever accessing food stamps. The vast majority of drug offenders are non-violent. The ban targeted people convicted of felony possession, trafficking, or other drug-related offenses, but not violent offenses such as homicide. The ban has extremely damaging effects for those who are attempting to piece their lives back together after serving time.

Many states have modified or removed the ban, noting it produced an upturn in the number of felons who returned to prison. The ban also has a disproportionately damaging affect on women and minorities. A lack of money for food also directly affects the children of felony-convicted individuals. Despite these serious drawbacks, several states still maintain a full or partial ban on food stamp access. People living in these states can become trapped in a cycle of incarceration and poverty with no exit.

Felons have an extremely difficult time getting back on their feet after being released from prison. Inmates are given nothing the day they are released and must navigate a world that does not treat felons kindly. Most find it extremely difficult to find jobs and housing. To deny food access to someone who has little ability to make money is cruel and unethical. Ex-convicts must be encouraged to find footing in society when they are released from prison, not be pushed to a level of desperation that encourages them to commit another crime. Food stamp bans produce nothing but ill effects to families and communities while simultaneously ensuring prisons stay full.

Allowing states to choose whether they keep the food stamp ban in place allows thousands of lives to be ruined by a broken system that creates a lifetime sentence for one offense. Sign the petition below to urge President Obama to work to lift the ban on food stamp access for drug felons nationwide.


Dear President Obama,

Access to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, is one of the most important stepping stones to recovery available for people released from prison. Despite this, due to welfare reform enacted in 1996, several states actually prohibit people from accessing this aid. Although this lifetime ban has been modified or removed in many states, there are still several with partial or full bans.

It is unacceptable to create walls for people attempting to receive the most basic forms of government assistance. Ex-convicts typically have a difficult time finding jobs or housing, so assistance in purchasing food is very much a necessity. The justice system is supposed to rehabilitate criminals and help them re-adjust to society when they are released. Restrictions such as the food stamp ban are not only ineffective, they actually encourage repeat offenses by creating a climate of desperation among released felons.

Restriction to food stamp access does nothing to end poverty or drug abuse; it simply hurts families and keeps people in prison. It is our responsibility as a just nation to provide avenues for people to rebuild their lives after serving time. Please do not allow non-violent drug offenses to continue to ruin lives and families. I urge you to reverse the damage done in 1996 and permanently repeal the ban on food assistance for drug felons.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: sammisreachers

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