On The Money: Food Stamps For Felons?

Posted on June 3, 2010. Filed under: Politics |

Controversial Measure Moving Forward in California

Reporting
Mike Luery

SACRAMENTO (CBS13)

California is now one step closer to providing food stamps for convicted felons who sold drugs. The measure has strong support – and also plenty of criticism at the Capitol – where some say it’s a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

Vinita Crenshaw is a convicted drug dealer – and just days away from delivering a baby. She supports a bill that would allow some 900 convicted drug dealers in California to receive food stamps. Crenshaw says food stamps might have stopped her from selling drugs years ago.

“I don’t think that I would have ended up resorting back to the behavior that If did,” she told CBS 13, then added, ” if I had just a little bit more help.”

Just last month, the State Assembly passed a bill exempting California from a federal ban on food stamps for convicted drug dealers.

AB1756 Fact Sheet (.pdf)

“Right now under current law, if you commit murder you get food stamps,” said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, the author of a bill that would alter the rules of eligibility.

Swanson is correct – the federal food stamp program has no restrictions preventing convicted murderers form getting food stamps upon their release.

But for drug dealers it’s a different story – with more than a dozen states banning the practice of providing food stamps for drug dealers – and California is one of them.

(See page 22 in link below)
State Options Report (.pdf)

But that may soon change.

“Why are we trying to do that?” Swanson asked out loud. The Democrat from Oakland then answered his own question. “We’re trying to make sure that there’s a rehabilitation package available that will prevent them from re-offending and coming back into prison at a cost of $50,000 a year.”

Supplying convicted drug dealers with food stamps would cost federal tax players an estimated one million dollars a year. Critics say the bill would reward criminals for bad behavior.

Lew Uhler, president of the Roseville based National Tax Limitation Committee told CBS 13: “Giving them the currency to remain in the drug world, which is food stamps getting traded off for drugs, is a silly and stupid approach.”

The controversial bill does not require drug dealers to go through any counseling to get the food stamps – and Capitol critics believe it’s a step in the wrong direction for California.

“Every dollar that you put towards someone who manufactured and distributed drugs is another dollar less that you have for a poor family – a law abiding poor family,” said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a Republican from Irvine.

The food stamp bill now goes to the State Senate for a possible vote later this month.

The California legislature, which is dominated by Democrats, previously approved two similar bills – both were vetoed in the past by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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