Criminal Justice Reform Paves the Way for Welfare Reform

By Mattie Quinn

Elizabeth Lower-Basch was quoted in this article about the importance of lifting the ban on those with felony drug convictions receiving food stamp and cash assistance programs.

“Only three states — Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia — have kept the full ban on food stamps, and 10 states have kept the full ban on cash assistance, according to Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports for the Center on Law and Social Policy. Prior to Wolf’s signature, Pennsylvania had lifted the ban on both benefits in 2003.

Most of the movement to relax or roll back the federal ban has taken place in the past couple of years — even in conservative states that historically don’t support policies to make the safety net bigger. Indiana, for instance, fully overturned its ban on SNAP last year, a change that will take effect in 2020. Several states passed reform laws in 2016, including Georgia, which has the highest share of people on parole or incarcerated.

Advocates frame these reforms as a way to reduce recidivism. According to one study, 91 percent of felons coming out of prison are food insecure, meaning they lack reliable access to food. And a 2017 paper from Havard University’s Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business found that recently released felons with full access to public benefits are 10 percent less likely to return to prison within a year.

“If your goal is for people to be reintegrating back into society, then access to food stamps and cash assistance is one way to do that,” says Lower-Basch.”

Read the full article by Governing here.

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