Farm Bill amendment will bar some ex-convicts from getting food stampsThe U.S. Senate passed a Farm Bill amendment barring those who have served time for murder or a violent sex crime from getting food stamps.
By: By Gilman Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The U.S. Senate passed a Farm Bill amendment barring those who have served time for murder or a violent sex crime from getting food stamps.
Linda Ketcham, who directs a nonprofit called the Madison Urban Ministry that serves ex-offenders, calls the provision both immoral and counterproductive.
Many ex-drug offenders are already barred from receiving food stamps, but states can opt out of that requirement, as many have. The ban on food stamps for murderers, rapists and pedophiles allows no such opt-out. Conservative bloggers have hailed the provision now headed from the Senate floor as evidence of rare bipartisan agreement: Taxpayers should not pay to feed former violent criminals.
But Ketcham calls it another obstacle to rehabilitating offenders once they’re released.
“To say to someone, ‘Because you were incarcerated, we’ve deemed that you’ve served your time but we’re going to continue to punish you by not allowing you to access FoodShare’... It’s a really a lie when we have people who propose these kinds of things who say they believe in forgiveness and redemption,” she said. “They’re lying. They don’t.”
Ketcham’s group is certified to screen ex-offenders for food stamp eligibility. She says food is the most urgent need of ex-offenders as they try to put their lives back together.
Jeremy Haile of the Washington-based Sentencing Project says if the amendment passes, as many as a million people serving time for these offenses who will eventually be released would be affected by this food stamp ban. He says the ban would also affect their families.
“The offender could be counted in terms of calculating food stamp benefits for the family,” Haile said. “They just wouldn’t be able to get it. But it would lower the family’s benefits.”
The amendment could be removed once the bill goes to a Senate-House conference committee. Haile says it’s unlikely to happen because it’s politically difficult to stand up for murderers, rapists, and pedophiles.