From Incarceration to RecoveryWhile many of the people who are mandated to go to recovery meetings are only doing so to fulfill an obligation, a significant number of people hear something said that resonates and they decide to give recovery a shot. Another group of people with substance abuse disorder find their way on the road of recovery while they are behind bars—serving time for a felony drug conviction. Despite the fact that the recidivism rates for felony drug offenders is nothing short of staggering, there are some who are tired of living in the insidious cycle of addiction and manage to work a program of recovery while incarcerated. It becomes a new way of life which they plan to embrace and continue to work at after their release. Unfortunately, the odds of success outside prison walls are low, partially due to the fact that the options for felony drug offenders are limited. If you are working a program of recovery, it is likely that you are no stranger to the feeling of hopelessness—and you are probably aware that such feelings can lead to relapse. In fact, in many states across the country, those who are released from a penal institution after serving time for a felony drug offense, find that there they are not eligible to state assistance programs. Such benefits do not apply to people with the aforementioned past, yet those same people often require such services more than anyone when you consider the fact that it can be hard for a felon to find work. Without work, being able to afford sustenance is difficult to say the least.
A Second ChanceIn recent years, lawmakers have begun to sing a different tune regarding addiction in light of the American opioid epidemic. It seems like that with each day that passes, Americans become more accepting of the idea that addiction is mental health disorder rather than a moral failing. The paradigm shift in thinking has led to changes in mandatory minimum sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders; therefore, giving addicts the option of treatment over jail time. Moving away from draconian drug sentencing laws has lead the current White House administration to commute 562 sentences since 2008. The vast majority of those incarcerated were serving time for nonviolent drug offenses, some of which were serving life. But what about those who have already served their time and the felony on their record makes it next to impossible to survive in an above the board manner. Recognizing that drug felons need help upon release if the chance of recidivism is to be mitigated, a number of states have begun let up on restrictions that prohibit such people from receiving state assistance, such as food stamps, PBS NewsHour reports. Thus another move in the fight to change archaic laws that only serve to disenfranchise those whose only crime was that of addiction.
One of the best ways that someone can move on after they’ve been released from prison is their ability to eat and take care of themselves,” said Marissa McCall Dodson of the Southern Center for Human Rights.In 1996, a federal ban went into effect that prohibited those convicted of felony drug crimes from receiving food stamps and cash assistance, according to the article. You may find it interesting to learn that the ban did not apply to all felons, just drug felons. Fortunately, states have the option of loosening up on such restrictions. And now, there are only seven states that still enforce the full ban on drug felons receiving food stamps. Those states include
- South Carolina
- West Virginia