December 24, 2012

32 states include starvation as a penalty for drug use

Emily Wang, American Prospect - Carla walked into my office with despair in her eyes. I was surprised. Carla has been doing well in her four months out of prison; she got off drugs, regained custody of her kids, and even enrolled in a local community college.

Without much prodding she admitted to me that she had returned to prostitution: “I am putting myself at risk for HIV to get my kids a f---ing happy meal.”

Despite looking high and low for a job, Carla explained, she was still unemployed. Most entry-level jobs felt out of reach with her drug record, but what’s worse, even the state wasn’t willing to throw her a temporary life preserver.

You see, Carla is from one of the 32 states in the country that ban anyone convicted of a drug felony from collecting food stamps. With the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study last week, it bears looking at how we are perpetuating burdens among the most vulnerable Americans with our outdated laws.

If she’d committed rape or murder, Carla could have gotten assistance to feed herself and her children, but because the crime she committed was a drug felony, Carla joined the hundreds of thousands of drug felons who are not eligible.

The 1996 passage of the Welfare Reform Act was supposedly implemented to prevent drug addicts from selling their food stamps for drugs. But that concern is virtually unwarranted today. Unlike old food-stamp coupons, today’s food stamps are distributed electronically, which makes selling or trading them quite difficult.

Nonetheless, the law persists. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nine states have a lifetime ban for food-stamp eligibly for people convicted of drug felonies. Twenty-three states have a partial ban, such as permitting eligibility for persons convicted of drug possession but not sale, or for persons enrolled in drug treatment programs.


Anonymous said...

Adding to this misery, marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance - right up there with cocaine, heroin, meth, PCP etc. Get caught with more than a small amount and you risk a felony conviction. Then try to get a job. Check out how many different petty crimes are classified as felonious. We are creating legions of felons in this country with our crazy laws. Worse than crazy, they are downright inhumane.

Khannea Suntzu said...

Suicide is a perfectly acceptable option for her as far as I am concerned. I don't want my tax dollars wasted on a drug user. She should take personal responsibility and kill herself and he kid in a way that does not create trouble for other people.

Anonymous said...

It seems many foreigners to our Judeo-Christian culture have a hard time understanding the concept of forgiveness. Fortunately for them, we forgive them for it and ignore their selfish, pagan attitude by accepting that people make mistakes and that they repent of them, as the woman in this article has. Why should she be treated more harshly than someone who has done actual harm to another?

Anonymous said...

One day we will realize how connected we are. When that happens, we will grasp the practicality of being our brother's keeper. In the meantime, we will continue to be ignorant and stupidly selfish, to our own ultimate disadvantage. Karma at work.

Mark Robinowitz said...

The Nazis called that attitude "life unworthy of life." It led to mass murder of about a hundred thousand German citizens inside psychiatric institutes. This is where the operatives of the "Final Solution" got their practical training.

I'm much more concerned about people who smuggle billions of dollars of drugs than those who deal with thousands of dollars worth. Why is the US in Afghanistan? Freedom and democracy?

Anonymous said...

egads the one comment is horrid what a freak you are! drug use is a social problem and the fact a murder or rapist can get food stamps but not a drug user is absurd and discrimination. we spend trillions on wars and useless crapola when our rights to basic care are often ignored. It is ez to be critical of those less fortunate than yourself, we were put here to share and create life in abundance not to war, kill, dominate each other but to create have a world filled with blessings if we only would stop war we could stop all the rest. :)

Anonymous said...

Can anyone say "cruel and unusual punishments" - how could this be Constitutional?

Let's stop calling it "The War On Drugs", and start calling it "The War On Marijuana" because pot is the only drug that shows up in pee tests after a couple of days. All other drug users can easily beat the test.

Actually, a more radical analysis of this oppresive campaign would be to see it as a part of the greater "War On Thinking" - pot smokers tend to be unconventional thinkers who can't be easily controlled - and this ties in with the War On Public Education, especially the arts in schools.

Yes, fellow commenter, let's not waste our tax dollars on feeding the children of drug users, like all those worthless druggie losers who are hooked on caffiene, nicotine, alcohol, mood-altering psychopharmaceuticals, etc. A drug is a drug, is a drug, is a drug. Who gets to say their mood-altering drug is legitimate, but mine isn't?!

It's mostly about economic competition; The so-called Partnership for A Drug-Free America - the alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies - are really worried that if pot use increases then people will realize that it really doesn't cause Reefer Madness, that it's much milder, safer, more effective, and more pleasant than the legal hard drugs, and that the public will use a lot less booze, cigarettes, and psycho drugs. Not good for corporate profits!! Oh yeah, and all those new pot smokers might turn into peaceniks who start questioning and disobeying authority (back to that War On Thinking thing, again).