Thousands of people trying to get back on their feet are denied access to the very thing that can help them stay sober. While violent offenders can eat, non-violent drug offenders are forever banned from receiving food assistance even when they're trying to live positive lives. Legislators are more concerned with their political careers than with ensuring that Texas citizens can get back on their feet and become productive members of society. In 1996, a bill passed through the Senate permanently banning anyone with a felony drug conviction from ever receiving benefits from the food stamp program. While it is easy to see the good intentions behind this law, it is an extremely flawed policy. In fact, 39 out of 50 states have opted out of it but Texas has not. Texas has the 2nd highest rate of incarceration in the world and a large percentage of those who have records are in some way drug related. People have the capacity for change. Why discriminate ONLY against people who were CAUGHT with drugs? Those that have criminal histories already face many obstacles to employment, housing, and taking away access to a need so basic is inhumane! Meet Elizabeth, she is a recovering addict, with felony drug convictions on her record. Elizabeth struggled for months to find employment. Once employment was gained she dealt with multiple abusive situations and tolerated them with the knowledge of how difficult finding another job would be. Elizabeth got fired. She also happened to be 7 months pregnant when she was fired. So now in addition to having the obstacle of her criminal history she is now the pregnant girl that most employers will be reluctant to hire. Her family is on drugs so they can't be a source of support to her. While she is pregnant she can't receive food stamp benefits because of her history, and the law. Once she has the baby she can receive benefits for the baby ( even though the baby can't eat) but how will she eat until then? She lives in Bastrop Texas which is a small town and the few food pantries available are limited in what they can do. In Austin the resources are greater, but that would mean having the time, and money to get there and if she had the money to spend for gas then she would just be able to go to the local store. Elizabeth should be able to access programs that her tax dollars helped fund! This law should not have been passed in the first place, but we need to send a message to our representatives that this is not acceptable behavior! Sign my petition and let them know that!
I am writing this letter to urge you to vote to Opt Texas out of the law that permanently denies SNAP benefits to people who have felony drug convictions on their record. It is a bad policy with a far reaching negative impact on all of the community. There are 39 other states that have already opted out. This law is discriminatory and inhumane and leaves an at risk population at higher risk of recidivism. Once someone does their time they should have an opportunity to reintegrate into society successfully. Sometimes that requires temporary assistance. It is abhorrent that we would not give assistance with a need so basic as food to someone who had a drug problem. The fact that it has no time limit is also unethical. We extend these benefits to every other type of criminal out there. It is time to change this.Please pass this through in the next legislative session! Thank you,