Senate Farm Bill to deny food assistance to anyone convicted of certain federal or state crimes

The United States Senate has agreed to Sen. David Vitter’s Amendment 1056 to the 2013 Farm Bill. The amendment would deny food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) for life to anyone convicted of certain federal or state crimes.If the amendment makes it out of the Senate, it may be too late to keep it from becoming law. And like previous successful efforts to impose these kinds of devastating barriers on people with criminal records and their families, we may be fighting to roll this back for decades to come.

Your help is needed to make sure the amendment does not make it into the final Farm Bill!

What You Can Do

Call your Senator’s office TODAY! Time is of the essence because the bill is before the full Senate now and Sen. Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said she hopes to finish the bill by the end of this week. Let them know how harmful this policy would be and that you hope they will ask Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill package to remove or limit Amendment 1056.

Suggested Message:

Amendment 1056 to the Farm Bill is counter-productive and will harm children and families as well as individuals who long ago paid their debt to society. I hope the Senator will encourage Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill to:

  • Eliminate the food assistance ban in Amendment 1056, or, if that is not possible,
  • Narrow the scope of the covered crimes, and
  • Limit the duration of the ban to a set and reasonable number of years, and
  • Provide a process to receive a waiver from the ban by demonstrating rehabilitation.

Contact Info for your Senators’ offices can be found by going to the U.S. Senate website

Why It’s Important 

Not only would Amendment 1056 create a lifetime ban on food assistance for individuals with certain types of convictions, it would also reduce the amount of assistance received by a family with a member convicted of a covered offense, imposing potential food shortages on children and families everywhere. Because the amendment is retroactive and creates a lifelong ban on food assistance, it has the potential to devastate thousands of individuals and their families, leaving them without food security and prompting individuals leading law-abiding lives to resort back to criminal activity to feed their families.

As you know, individuals with criminal records already confront thousands of Federal, state, and local legal and policy barriers to employment, education, housing, and public benefits. Because of these and other barriers, unemployment is particularly high among this population, and many individuals struggle to provide for themselves and their families. The Attorney General has asked federal agencies and state attorneys general to reduce or eliminate collateral consequences that do not enhance public safety, such as barriers to public assistance that make it harder for people to meet their most basic needs. Amendment 1056 would add another such counter-productive barrier to the federal code.

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Is it me, or does anyone else see this as being akin to euthanasia for those who are also being forced homeless when they get out of prison?

Thousands of RSO’s in California have been forced by parole to be homeless because of Jessica’s Law for years, including myself. Many of them depend on assistance so they can at least have something to eat since parole restrictions and public perceptions make getting work nearly impossible. The most popular form of work I saw during my time on parole was “canning,” which means digging into trash dumpsters to collect cans and bottles to redeem at recycling centers. This also happens to be illegal in many cities, making it a parole violation.

The passage of this into law would be like a death sentence to a lot of these who depend on them to survive.

I believe our society is made up of the most judgmental, vindictive, hateful and asinine people on planet earth. People make mistakes! Most religions, especially Christianity, teach that humans are prone to mistakes because of a fallen nature inherited from the original human pair. Atheists believe that humans are prone to natural instincts which compel us to be selfish (see Dawkins).

So when someone makes a mistake that proceeds from their fallen nature, or from natural instincts, we want to deny them the same civil liberties that are enjoyed by people who cheat on their taxes, cheat on their spouses, prone to alcoholism, liars, backstabbers and so forth…we live in an extremely morally relativistic society. Its sickening…

While certainly not an expert on the subject, it is my understanding that things like public infrastructure and public assistance programs are funded with general tax revenue, on a local, state or federal level.

I think it is safe to assume that most persons with a criminal record are, or at least have been, tax payers at one point in their lifetime. Even RSOs.

To deny a tax payer the benefits that their taxes pay for – from utilizing public recreational space to not being eligible to receive general welfare benefits, all due to an action in the past – is “Taxation without Representation”.

Revolutions have been started and (formerly) great nations were founded over this concept.

One of my first stops after I was released from prison was to get signed up for food stamps. It’s a critical step for those who are going through transition and reintegrating into society while seeking employment. This proposition doesn’t make sense from a logical stand point. When released, most people are reaching out for any assistance they can get legally that will prevent relapse.

I think a reason we’re experiencing more people applying for welfare is not necessarily unemployment, but lack of quality employment. As more corporations are seeking larger profits for their shareholders on Wal*Street and board members they’re “trimming the fat” so to speak. One way to do that is to employ more part timers and less full time employees. Full time employees usually get benefits that aren’t offered to the part timers. Many of these part timers qualify for government assistance. Maybe soon welfare will only be available to those who are less-gainfully employed. That’s part of the price we pay for rolling back the prices on Tchotchkies. Meanwhile the price of gas, meat, cheese, fruit, and other staples increase. We can’t afford to increase minimum wage, all the state labor unions will cry foul and demand that their members require the same percentage increase. The backlash would be more school and public safety cut backs as well as tax increases.

Maybe we ought to give first time ex-felons $30,000 gate money so they can get an earnest start in society and possibly start a small business; consider the odds they’ll find gainful employment post release. It’s cheaper than the $48,000 it cost to warehouse them for a year.

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be starting a new job Monday. I’ve been working for this company through a temp agency for the last two months. They know of my conviction and are willing to give me a job based on my present performance and not my past. It’s taken me ten months since my last job to land this one and it will feel good to have job security and a structured schedule. I also look forward to being able to contribute monetarily again to this website and the great cause it stands for.

I’d like to urge everyone who can to contact their federal Representatives to insure that they know that this amendment to the Farm Bill is counterproductive. The reasons, as many here have stated, include the recidivism potential, with it’s associated costs. The costs are 1. to the victim of the crime, 2. to the local law enforcement, 3. to the judicial system, 4. the much higher cost of feeding and housing associated with imprisonment.

The cost of supplying food stamps is relatively meager when compared to the other costs.

Also, the collateral damage to families is well worth mentioning. The innocent members of the household should not have to suffer for any desire for revenge via removal of food stamps.