Ask Congress to Lessen Unfair Punishments for Ex-Offenders

Target: United States Congress

Goal: Demand that Congress ease policy that bans people convicted of drug felonies from receiving food stamps or government cash assistance

In 1996, Congress passed a policy imparting a lifetime ban on food stamps and government cash assistance for people convicted of a drug felony unless they lived in a state that explicitly opted out of the ban. While a majority of states have opted out or modified the bans, nearly a dozen states have kept the welfare ban without modification, and others preserve obstacles to these needed government programs. These needless bans affect some of the most vulnerable families. By denying these benefits to former drug addicts, we are making it much harder for them to get access to the treatment they need to recover from their addictions.

These bans are unfair, and recent studies show that they have terrible consequences. A study done in part at the Yale University School of Medicine shows that by forcing these families to go hungry, the ban on food stamps could be sending young mothers to prostitution, in turn increasing their risk of contracting H.I.V. In addition, many former drug addicts would rely on government cash assistance to pay for residential treatment programs, and without that help, do not complete their programs.

Prisoners, especially former drug addicts, have a hard enough time re-acclimating into society as it is; we simply should not be placing additional burdens on them. By signing this petition you are asking Congress to reconsider this nationwide ban on food stamps and government cash assistance for reformed drug felons.


Dear United States Congress,

The lifetime ban on food stamps and government cash assistance for former drug addicts, passed in 1996, should be struck down. This law is placing an undue and unnecessary burden on these people — often famlies — that could prevent them from getting their lives back on track.

By banning government cash assistance, these former drug felons may have trouble accessing and paying for their residential treatment. In addition, a study done in part by the Yale University School of Medicine affirms previous studies linking the ban on food stamps and an increase in prostitution in single mothers. Please, repeal this ban and begin a discussion on how better to punish those who break the law, while also fostering an environment of recovery and re-acclimation into society.


[Your Name Here]

photo credit: Klaus with K via Wikimedia Commons

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103 Signatures

  • Lynn Juozilaitis
  • Ann Blank
  • tam O
  • Mary-Carol Gales
  • Eveline Mutsaerts
  • Carole Mathews
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