More states are abolishing a two-decade-old ban on welfare and food stamps for people convicted of drug crimes, reports the Wall Street Journal. It is one of many changes aimed at easing the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. This year, Alabama and Texas lifted restrictions on food stamps for ex-offenders, after similar action by California and Missouri last year. Alabama's law permits former convicts who submit to drug testing to receive welfare. Congress disqualified people convicted of state and federal drug offenses from receiving such benefits in a 1996 overhaul of federal welfare programs. The law allows states to make exceptions.
A dozen states have made drug offenders eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program, and nearly two dozen states permit them to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, says the Congressional Research Service. “Should they be denied those benefits when that could help them get back on their feet again and be a productive member of society?” asked Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward, a Republican who sponsored the legislation. The federal ban, sometimes called the Gramm Amendment, after its sponsor, then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), was part of a wave of tough-on-crime laws in the 1980s and 1990s that expanded the repercussions of a criminal conviction beyond incarceration.