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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Legislation to lift lifetime ban on food assistance for people with drug felonies passes the House

people in a grocery store
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The Michigan House overwhelmingly passed legislation lifting a lifetime ban on food assistance benefits for people with drug felonies.

The legislation passed out of the House on a 92-15 vote and is expected to be signed into law. Currently, Michigan residents with more than one drug felony conviction cannot receive food assistance benefits.

Alex Rossman is with the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“I really think it’s been a bipartisan mindshift to understand the economic repercussions that a criminal record or previous offenses are having on people and that it really makes it impossible to get out from under the punishment and payment of those mistakes,” he said.

Rossman said the laws were put on the books in an effort to reduce crime by penalizing it. But, he says, drug crimes are often bourne out of economic circumstances or addiction.

“Why don’t we look at how better to treat addiction or how to reduce poverty instead of putting people away for long periods of time and then giving them criminal records and red tape on assistance that last their lifetime and make it harder to get back on the straight and narrow,” he said.

A 2018 study found access to food assistance reduced recidivism within the first year by 13%. And, according to Rossman, the lifetime ban disproportionately impacts people with disabilities.

Michigan is poised to join 26 other states in lifting the lifetime ban.

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