The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


California’s choice to only partially opt out of the federal lifetime ban on food stamps for felony drug offenders results in the California legislature denying necessary and vital food assistance to thousands of otherwise eligible Californians. Other than supporting a “tough on drugs” agenda, no legitimate reason can be provided for categorically denying food stamps to individuals with felony drug convictions while allowing individuals convicted of other crimes to continue receiving the benefit. This ban is detrimental to the reintegration of ex-felons into the community; for poor ex-felons, who are financially eligible to receive food stamps, the ban significantly limits the possibility and likelihood of leading a successful and productive life outside prison walls. California should pass a provision fully opting out of the federal lifetime ban on the receipt of food stamps by individuals convicted of felony drug offenses. Six key reasons exist as to why California should fully reinstate food stamp benefits to all financially eligible individuals regardless of conviction status: (1) everyone deserves to eat, (2) separate punishments exist for food stamp fraud, (3) the state should remove penology from social services, (4) the drug conviction ban is over- and under-inclusive, (5) food insecurity is one of the most significant barriers for formerly incarcerated drug offenders reentering society, and (6) food stamps for drug felons will boost the economy. The federal lifetime ban on food stamps for convicted drug offenders Is antithetical to the original purpose of the Food Stamp Program. Until California fully opts out of the federal ban, needless hunger in California will persist.

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