Lately, prison reentry organizations, as well as those seeking effective policies to reduce recidivism, have received numerous emails urging them to contact their Senators to stop Senator David Vitter’s amendment 1056 to the 2013 Farm Bill from ever getting out of the Senate. Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, wants individuals who committed serious crimes to be banned from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for life. SNAP is more commonly referred to as food stamps, and are essential to the millions of Americans that go hungry each day, the majority of them children.
Senate Democrats do not seem to have an issue with this lifetime ban, hence the campaign to call or write one’s Senators expressing one’s opposition.
Certain crimes have more stigmas attached to them. Murderers, rapists, and pedophiles are universally hated by most, but does that mean that they can never redeem themselves in society? Apparently Vitter and those who support his amendment believe they cannot.
Study after study show that those with a criminal history face barriers to employment. For those with a violent crime those barriers can be insurmountable. Is the Senate suggesting that felons who committed violent crimes in the past be forced to go hungry, or join the already shameful number of Americans that have to find nourishment from soup kitchens?
Critics ask if the Senators ever thought about the collateral consequences of amendment 1056. What if the felon has a family? Should his or her children go hungry because of the lifetime SNAP ban? Can city and state budgets afford the cost of feeding whole families in soup kitchens? One in four American children is not getting enough food daily, leading to a variety of health issues, and stunted cognitive abilities, according to ABC News. Click here to go to website
And then there is the ethical issue. Is it morally acceptable to deny food to a person who served his or her sentence and is trying to start a new life? No one is suggesting that the Senators have to like every one of their constituents, but the call to action to stop Amendment 1056 from going any further suggests that they should seriously consider the collateral consequences before making hasty, and unwise, decisions.