SB 102: Food Stamps and Drug Convictions

Sen. Broden has introduced SB 102 which would exercise the state’s discretion under 21 USC 862a to allow someone convicted of a drug offense to be eligible for food stamps if the person hasn’t had a drug conviction in the prior 5 years or is being tested at least every two months while living in a halfway house or is in a certified substance abuse program.

There is a certain logic to the notion that, if you can afford drugs, you can afford food instead. On the other hand, the war on (some) drugs has not proven to be a very cost-effective undertaking. If you reduced the number of people in jail for drug offenses, you could probably afford to have a lot more people on food stamps. I guess I don’t have any strong opinions on this legislation one way or another.


  1. Dan Saladin says

    While I do agree that if you reduced the number of people in jail on drug offenses, you could probably afford to have a lot more people on food stamps, I do think that people’s eligibility for food stamps (or any other public assistance for that matter) should be subject to drug testing. As a tax payer it’s a bit hard to digest that while I could lose my primary source of income (employment) due to a failed drug test, people on public assistance which is paid for by my tax dollars, have no repercussions of a failed drug test. I also think that food stamps are much like unemployment and are meant as a temporary means of survival and not to be taken as a permanent way of living as some people have been doing for years. Not that I think people should be left to starve or anything but they should be motivated to get on with their lives in a manner that is not reliant on government assistance for the rest of their lives.

  2. steelydanfan says

    People are still bringing up this long-debunked argument?

    Unless you work for the government or are legally entitled to a job from your employer, comparing drug testing for employment to drug testing for assistance benefits is absolutely absurd.

  3. steelydanfan says

    For those who are, as you seem to think, “permanently” on government assistance, have you ever considered that that might be because they can’t find a job?

    People have egos. No one wants to be on assistance long-term. If they could get a job, they would have.

  4. MarcD says

    The basic problem of this course of action is that it is applied to a particular class of people. Why not drug test farmers before they get their subsides? Or what about contractors? The Assembly? Heck, why not go all the way and suggest that if I get a credit on my taxes for something like mortgage interest (which is just a government handout like food stamps) I should be drug tested annually.

    It seems that we only want to drug test programs with a means test, i.e. if you are poor, you sacrifice some of your search and seizure rights to get a payment. If you aren’t poor, you don’t.

  5. Mary says

    Since, I assume, a substantial portion of food stamps help infants and children get fed, it seems unreasonable to deny them such help based on behavior for which they are not responsible.

  6. Chris says

    The evidence suggests that people who take the time and make the effort to sign up for assistance aren’t taking drugs. Both Florida and Michigan had programs where less than 3% of those tested failed their tests. I would argue that the testing wastes more money than simply allowing a few people on drugs to have the food stamps.

    This also brings up another theory I have. We all know there are many people on drugs in our society. I think these poor people are so wrapped up in their habit that they aren’t taking the time to apply for assistance. I think it’s too much effort for them when 99% of their daily activity is centered around securing more of their chosen substance or actually being high. Or, perhaps they are functioning addicts and have a source of income which eliminates the need for assistance. For whatever reason, those who are taking drugs aren’t showing up in the assistance line in any great number.

  7. says

    Re: Infants and children – the way the federal part of this law is set up, they simply recalculate the family allotment as if the convicted individual was not in the family (though they continue to use the income of the convict to calculate the family resources.)

  8. Cheryl Ashe says

    I asked my Indiana State Senator to sponsor SB 102. Denying aid to those convicted of a drug felony makes it more difficult for them to support themselves as they leave the criminal justice system and reenter society. Although family and friends will often house ex-offenders, most cannot afford to feed them. Many companies will not hire ex-offenders and the ones that do get jobs can only find part-time job. Studies have shown good nutrition helps reduce cravings in addicts. If addicts have fewer craving and work though them, addicts have less reason to commit crimes to support their drug habits.. I said it is better to spend tax payers money on food stamps, which for one adult is $2,400 a year, than about $20,000 a year to house a person in prison. If we do not find a way to lower the number of people re-offending and going back to prison, this state is going to have to build another prison. Helping ex-offenders who have drug problems eat healthier thereby reducing craving is a small step in reducing recidivism.

  9. mrs c. combs says

    I am disabled myself. So is my son, who was convicted of possession. They terminated his food stamps. Who do you think feeds him…his mother. I can verily feed myself. This is a hardship on the families. He is not a drug addict at this time…law needs to be changed. He was not selling or distributing.

  10. Tabatha says

    I am a convicted felon on 2 counts of possession of cocaine…I once used drugs recreational but quickly learned my lesson after several years in prison…I work full time and then some n still cannot make ends meet. I applied for benefits and was denied. I have been clean n sober for 6 years…I have worked thru intense inpatient rehabilitation for 2 years, continued with outpatient to this very day and have 4 months left on parole…through it all I have dropped clean every 2 weeks for the last 4 years as well as random drops. Its not fair that someone like me cannot receive help when its really needed…I am totally FOR this rule to be drug tested to receive assistance but it is not right to disqualify people for what they have done when they were young n hanging out at college parties….we have all (most) done this n made bad choices once or twice in life but I have been punished for what I did …this is double jeapardy ppl

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