Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits

Some 15 to 20 million people have been arrested on drug charges and subjected to the tender mercies of the criminal justice system in the past two decades. But, thanks to congressional drug warriors, the punishments drug offenders face often extend far beyond the prison walls or the parole officer's office. A number of federal laws ostensibly aimed at reducing drug use block people with drug convictions from gaining access to federal benefits and services. These laws have a disproportionate impact on society's most vulnerable or marginalized members -- the poor, people of color, and women with children -- and in some cases, do not even require that a person actually be convicted of a drug offense to be punished.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/publichousing.jpg
No conviction is needed to be evicted from public housing for drugs -- even someone else's.
A growing number of groups and individuals ranging from the American Bar Association to welfare rights organizations, public health and addiction groups, drug reform organizations, and elected officials have called for changes in these laws or their outright repeal, saying they are cruel, inhumane, counterproductive, and amount to "double jeopardy" for drug offenders trying to become productive members of society.

"We feel that these laws are discriminatory and tend to focus on an illness as opposed to a crime," said Alexa Eggleston of the Legal Action Center, one of the key groups in the movement to adjust those laws. "We also think that if you have a conviction, you should be able to serve your time and come out and resume your life. We say we want people to get sober, get treatment, get a job, get housing, but then we set up all these barriers and roadblocks that seem designed to stop them from moving forward. These lifetime bans are very destructive of people's ability to reintegrate into society and move forward with their lives as productive citizens."

"These discriminatory laws represent incredible barriers in terms of people getting on with their lives, which is why they are part of our platform for change," said Pat Taylor, director of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national alliance of individuals and organizations committed to securing the rights of people with addictions. "If you can't get housing, can't get a job, it's really hard to get your life back on track."

"One of the problems we constantly face is helping people who have been convicted of a drug crime," said Linda Walker of All of Us or None, a California-based initiative organizers prisoners, ex-prisoners, and felons to fight the discrimination they face because of their criminal convictions. "Why do they ask about that on the student loan applications? Why do they face lifetime bans on public housing? These are people did their time, paid their restitution, they've moved on and matured, and now, because of something they did in their twenties, they can't get into senior housing."

Walker knows a bit about the plight of the ex-con. She was convicted not a drug offense, but for a crime committed in an effort to get money to buy drugs. While Walker's status as a non-drug offender means she is not barred from receiving food stamps or public housing, she still wears the scarlet letter of the ex-con. "I currently work for a county office, and each time I go up for a position or promotion, this becomes a problem," she explained. "I've been out of the criminal justice system for 14 years now, but I'm still being told that because of my criminal history I can't be considered for this job or that."

These "double jeopardy" laws have been formulated in the last 20 years as part of the ratcheting-up of the war on drugs and include:

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, under which local housing agencies and others who supervise federally assisted housing have the discretion to deny housing when any household member uses alcohol in a way that interferes with the "health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment" of the premises by other tenants, illegally uses drugs, or is convicted of drug-related criminal activity. People who are evicted or denied housing under the law are cut off from federal housing assistance for three years.

According to a GAO report on the working of laws designed to deny benefits to drug offenders, some 500 individuals or families were evicted under the act in 13 large public housing agencies GAO surveyed in 2003 and about 1,500 were denied admission by 15 agencies in the same year. The agency reported that public housing agencies nationwide evicted about 9,000 people and denied admission to another 49,000 because of criminal convictions in 2003, with drug convictions consisting of some unknown but significant subset of those. While concrete numbers are hard to come by, it seems clear that tens of thousands of people are adversely affected by laws barring drug offenders from receiving public housing or Section 8 assistance.

Subsequent changes in federal laws and accompanying regulations have enshrined housing authorities' discretion and it was further solidified in a 2002 Supreme Court decision. In that case, the high court upheld an Oakland public housing authorities right to use its discretion to evict 64-year-old long-time tenant Pearlie Rucker, her mentally disabled teenage daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild after the daughter was caught with cocaine three blocks from the building.

Only one class of drug offender is specifically prohibited from obtaining public housing -- persons who have been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamines. They, along with society's other favorite demonized group, registered sex offenders, are the only groups of offenders singled out for prohibitions.

The 1990 Denial of Federal Benefits Program, which allows state and federal judges to deny drug offenders federal benefits such as grants, contracts, and licenses. According to the GAO, some 600 people a year are affected by this program in the federal courts.

Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (more familiarly known as the welfare reform act), under which persons convicted of a state or federal felony offense for selling or using drugs are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving cash assistance and food stamps. Convictions for other crimes, including murder, do not result in the loss of benefits. Section 115 affects an estimated 92,000 women and 135,000 children.

The welfare reform act contains a provision allowing states to opt out, although if they fail to act, the lifetime bans remain in effect. In 14 states where legislators have not acted, drug felons still face the federal ban, even though their sentences may be long-finished and their offenses decades old. But in 36 states, legislators have acted to limit the ban in some fashion, allowing drug offenders to get public assistance if they meet certain conditions, such as participating in drug or alcohol treatment, meeting a waiting period, if their conviction was for possession only, or other conditions.

Public Law 104-121, which blocks access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for people whose primary disability was alcohol or drug dependence. This 1996 law replaced a 1972 SSI "Drug Abuse and Alcoholism" program that allowed people in drug treatment, which was mandatory, to designate a payee to manage benefits to ensure they would not be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. The Social Security Administration estimates that more than 123,000 people lost benefits when this law went into effect, while another 86,000 managed to retain them by virtue of age or by being reclassified into a different primary care disability category.

The 1998 Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision (also known as the "Aid Elimination Penalty"), which states that people with drug convictions cannot receive federal financial aid for a period of time determined by the type and number of convictions. This law does not apply to others with convictions, including drunk-driving offenses, violent crimes, or other criminal offenses. Last year, the provision was reformed to limit its applicability to offenses committed while a student is enrolled in college and receiving federal aid. Since the law went into effect in 2000, some 200,000 have been denied student financial aid.

The Hope Scholarship Credit, which allows for income tax deductions for people paying college tuition and fees. The credit allows taxpayers to take up to a $1,000 credit for tuition and additional credits for related expenses. It specifically excludes the credit for students who were convicted of a drug offense during the tax year in question, or their parents paying the bills.

While GAO notes that "thousands of persons were denied postsecondary education benefits, federally assisted housing, or selected licenses and contracts as a result of federal laws that provide for denying benefits to drug offenders," it is low-balling the real figure, which, according to its own numbers, is in the hundreds of thousands. Additionally, the GAO report does not factor in the number of people who simply did not apply for housing, welfare benefits, or student loans because they knew or believed they were ineligible.

"The focus of all of those provisions is punishing people who've made a mistake as opposed to helping people find treatment," said Donovan Kuehn, a spokesman for NAADAC, the Association of Addiction Professionals, the nation's largest grouping of counselors, educators, and health care professionals dealing with addiction issues. "As addiction treatment professionals, we're very hopeful that with a change in leadership in the Congress, we could move toward helping people find personal solutions to their problems as opposed to criminalizing them."

Kraig Selken, a senior studying history at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, would like to see that happen. He knows first-hand the sting of the HEA drug provision. After being arrested with a small amount of marijuana, Selken paid his fine and sat through court-ordered drug treatment. He thought he had paid his debt to society. It was not until Selken began reading up on the HEA drug provision after his conviction that he realized his punishment wasn't over. Because of his misdemeanor marijuana conviction, he became ineligible for student financial assistance for two years.

"Ironically, today was fee payment day at school. I had to write my own check instead of paying for it with student loans," Selken told the Chronicle last week. "The lack of access to student loans hit me hard," he said. "Last semester, the only reason I could afford to go to school without loans was because my great-grandmother died and left me a little bit of money. Otherwise, I would not have been able to attend."

Selken said he plans to go on to law school, but even though he will be eligible for financial assistance again, he will still have to pay a price. "I'm still going to have to answer 'yes' on the federal financial aid form and I will have to go through the whole rigamorale of providing documentation to show that I am again eligible."

The HEA drug provision, authored by leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-I), may be the first barrier to drug offenders' reintegration to fall. The provision took effect in 2000, but in the face of rising opposition led by the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR), Souder retreated, and the act was amended last year to count only offenses committed while a student was in school and receiving financial aid. But that move failed to quiet the calls for outright repeal, and with a Democratic majority in the Congress, advocates hope to finally get their way.

"We are very optimistic that this harmful and discriminatory penalty will finally be repealed by this Congress," said Tom Angell, communications director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, one of the most active groups in the CHEAR coalition.

"There is so much wrong with the HEA drug provision, I hardly know where to begin," said Drug Reform Coordination Network associate director David Guard, CHEAR's coordinator. "The drug provision disproportionately hurts the children of low- and middle-income families -- the very people the HEA is designed to assist -- and it disproportionately affects minorities, who, even though they use drugs at the same rate as whites, are much more likely to be arrested. Students who are forced out of college by losing their financial aid are less likely to come back to school," Guard said. "Let's hope Congress moves to repeal it this year," he said.

The HEA drug provision also hurts students seeking state financial aid. While states are under no obligation to blindly follow the federal financial aid guidelines when it comes to drug offenders, many do so, often merely because it is convenient. In at least one state, Maryland, legislative efforts are under way end the state's reflexive echo of the federal penalty.

There is also a chance of progress this year on the food stamp program, which, as part of the passage of the food bill, will be up for consideration early this year. According to the Food Research and Action Center, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will soon begin hearings on Title IV of the food bill, which includes food stamps, and the center is preparing the way for renewed discussions on relief for states which have not opted out of the ban.

While it was politically expedient to attempt to further punish some of society's most despised individuals -- drug users and offenders -- serious studies of the impact of these measures have led to calls for their reform or repeal. In 2003, the Join Together coalition, which supports community-based efforts to advance effective alcohol and drug policy, prevention, and treatment, put together a prestigious policy panel, headed by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke to examine ways of ending discrimination against drug users.

In its final report, that panel made a number of recommendations. Those included:

  • People with drug convictions but no current drug use should face no obstacles getting student loans, other grants, scholarships, or access to government training programs.
  • Persons with nonviolent drug convictions but no current drug use should not be subject to bans on receiving cash assistance and food stamps.
  • Public housing agencies and providers of Section 8 and other federally assisted housing should use the discretion given to them in the public housing law to help people get treatment, rather than permanently barring them and their families from housing.
  • People who are disabled as a result of their alcohol or other drug disease should be eligible for Social Security Disability Income and Supplemental Security Income.

The American Bar Association has also weighed in against doubly penalizing drug offenders and drug users. In a 2004 resolution, the group adopted recommendations based on those of the Join Together policy panel. Like Join Together, the ABA called for alcoholism and drug addiction to be considered as a chronic treatable disease and public health matter. It also urged that "people seeking treatment or recovery from alcohol or other drug diseases should not be subject to legally imposed bans or other barriers based solely on their addiction. Such bans should be identified and removed."

While a movement to undo federal laws and programs that doubly penalize drug offenders or users is growing and has significant support among some Democratic members of Congress, with the exception of the HEA, little progress has been made in cutting them back, although that could change now that Democrats are in control of the Congress.

For a sense of how previous Republican-led congresses have felt about rethinking these punitive laws and programs, one need only look at the fate of the bill filed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and cosponsored by 10 other legislators, including sole Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That bill, which would have temporarily waived provisions denying federal benefits to drug users or offenders in areas affected by the storm, went nowhere.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Why dont these groups sue?

At Pain Relief Network we have gotten more involved in criminal cases (against pain patients and doctors who treat patients) than any other reform organization, this to work out the legal basis for legal challenges to the Controlled Substances Act itself. While all the arguments made in this article are of course, strong policy arguments, they are also legal arguments.
Why isn't ACLU Drug Policy Project doing these cases?
As long as the opposition merely complains and takes no action, the system continues to destroy our country.
What we need is action, not just words.
Thanks,
Siobhan Reynolds
Pain Relief Network.org

ACLU Action

The ACLU did file a lawsuit in a federal court of appeals (8th circuit) in the case Students for a Sensible Drug Policy v. Spellings.  Court opinion can be found here. According to the ruling, the ACLU's complaint was dismissed "for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted."  The SSDP maintains that the court erred in "not considering the full legislative history of section 1091(r), which shows a purpose to impose a second criminal punishment."  

Linda Walker, ex-con

"Walker knows a bit about the plight of the ex-con. She was convicted not a drug offense, but for a crime committed in an effort to get money to buy drugs. While Walker's status as a non-drug offender means she is not barred from receiving food stamps or public housing, she still wears the scarlet letter of the ex-con."

Boy, have you not succeeded in getting much sympathy for Walker from me with that passage.
While drug use itself is really not a crime, though the government tells us it is, "a crime committed in an effort to get money" certainly is. What exactly did Walker do to get money to buy drugs, and why aren't you telling us?
Whether or not the state should promote people convicted of non-drug crimes is, I think, a question somewhat outside the mission of stopthedrugwar.org .
I imagine Walker stands a chance of getting a fairer shake in the private sector. Is there something preventing her from trying to escape the clutches of the state?

"What exactly did Walker do

"What exactly did Walker do to get money to buy drugs, and why aren't you telling us?"

 

Thats the thing. Its been 14 years and you still want to know.

 

Most crime committed is in some form related to drugs.  99% of these people wouldn't steal a dime if they were sober

falsley accused and convicted

I am a 65 year old black female.  9 months ago approximately 200 black citizens of my community were arrested and jailed with charges of distributing and manufacturing cocaine.  I was among these 200 citizens.  I have never been arrested or convicted of any crime.  I lived very quietly in HUD housing for senior citizens.  When the dust cleared I was coerced and threatened into taking a plea for distribution. (never sold a drug in my life), I lost my housing and cannot afford the rents that are being charged today.  One day I was a person without a criminal record, did not know that much about the effects of the law on drug offenders.  Today I am a senior citizen with a drug conviction of distribution and homeless.  I just want to know how did arresting me and and convicting me better the community.  I am just completely devastated and do not know what to do.  I spent all my savings on a lawyer who did nothing to help me.  I did nothing to warrant these actions against me.  I don't know where to turn.  Is there help out there.  I am a good person, I feel totally helpless where before I was quite strong.  I also had all my possessions seized, i.e. car, savings which were eventually returned to me.

re false accusations with convicition

 

GREETINGS ,So sorry to hear your story,justice blows. I too am facing a similar situation on losing my housing from an

  • an Anonymous tip via landlord of SELLING,/TRAFFICKING DRUGS  BY,NON RESIDENTS.'FAIR HEARING'? MEETING was last week they say u only have to be reported,not conviction,so they are determining my housing situation.Today i answered my landlords eviction notice,,my rent is pd till april.FINALLY GOD TOOK OVER THEY RULED in my fa.vor,and no rent increase.Have u contacted any officials ? iM CONTACTING EVERYONE I CAN I UNDERSTAND YOUR DILEMMA, I too may be in your shoes i pray and send favor your way,may GOD BLESS U,,sandee brock
  •  

I myself is also in this

I myself is also in this situation they say I sold 10 pills to an informant in may.. I got arrested in October went to jail for 10 days got out got a letter from housing lost my housing in Jan can't get a job due to this charge and I still haven't been to court again for it and thus happened over a yr ago.. Jobless and homeless.. I also had a meeting w housing to try to keep it nope didn't work.. Sucks

I am also in a similar

I am also in a similar situation I was arrested in Oct for something they said I did in may went to jail for 10 days and when I got out there was a letter from housing saying I was getting kicked out I tried to fight it and lost they only have me a month to figure out what to do.. Well I still am not convicted still haven't gone back to court homeless and can't get a job due to charge and its been over a yr..so I don't think its Right then can take away housing before convicted.. I was on it for 10yrs before this happened w no problems.. They told me if I haven't moved and transfered voucher I wouldn't have lost it..

falsley accused and convicted

I am a 65 year old black female.  9 months ago approximately 200 black citizens of my community were arrested and jailed with charges of distributing and manufacturing cocaine.  I was among these 200 citizens.  I have never been arrested or convicted of any crime.  I lived very quietly in HUD housing for senior citizens.  When the dust cleared I was coerced and threatened into taking a plea for distribution. (never sold a drug in my life), I lost my housing and cannot afford the rents that are being charged today.  One day I was a person without a criminal record, did not know that much about the effects of the law on drug offenders.  Today I am a senior citizen with a drug conviction of distribution and homeless.  I just want to know how did arresting me and and convicting me better the community.  I am just completely devastated and do not know what to do.  I spent all my savings on a lawyer who did nothing to help me.  I did nothing to warrant these actions against me.  I don't know where to turn.  Is there help out there.  I am a good person, I feel totally helpless where before I was quite strong.  I also had all my possessions seized, i.e. car, savings which were eventually returned to me.

These are issues that

These are issues that millions of felons wil face in the next 2 decades America will expect to see a massive amount of agiging felons ,Vets and poor working class people that simple can not afford to rent in their own country. I was reading today that in the Uk  enermous amounts of men are living with mom and dad well of in their 30s this is a global issue hurting all countries and i feel one of the most destable acts that can happen to a modern society.

Personally I would write your local congressmen see if their is a office close by network with your church or friends of groups of people wrongly convicted eldery women have no place on the streets. Homelessness is against my religious and philosophical views if you have the ability to be heard and protect the rights of the oppressed people in your area I hope you do it .

 

 

Peace Be With You 

 

Destroying evil will not be easy but I believe it can be done.

 

P.S  Start applying for SSI  and disability move to Pueblo Colorado etc look for assisted living in places like St. Petersburg if you are homeless your a criminal in many places in America. 

Or not committed at all.

Or not committed at all.  False convictions still occur; they know they just can't win, nor do they have the money for the long, uphill battle.  

Who describes what a crime is?

You hypocritical sinners. The kettle calling the pot black doesn't even describe man's accusations against others. It is not our business to write laws that prohibits the unalien rights that God has given us. Christ died for all of our sins and said that he doesn't accuse us to the Father but someone down here does. (John 5:45) Man's laws not God's laws are ungodly. (Acts 5:29) Stop this crap...every stinking one of you. Stop throwing rocks at others unless you never sinned...ever....(John 8:7-11)

And if someone broke a manmade law and paid his manmade debt to society, it should be remembered no more. If Christ told us that he remembers our sins no more, how dare you go on labeling someone an ex-con. Shame on you...all of you brainwashed human beings. I'm embarrassed to be a part of the human race because of your self righteousness. Christ says it all and you won't even LISTEN!!!! Two-faced Christians will be spewed out because you are lukwarm toward God's laws. (REV. 3:16) Christ gave us true liberty...not American's government, not the Statue of Liberty, not the American Flag, not the Liberty bell, not graven images, nor any manmade government...you fools! Your religion is worthless....Read all of James 1:20-27. Christ was the scapegoat who took on all of our sins for God judges no man, he put all of our judgment upon His son. (John 5:22) You judge the sins of the flesh but Christ does not. (John 8:15) If you don't show mercy and compassion, you are not using True Justice. (Zech. 7:9-10) If you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you. (Matt. 6:15, Matt. 7:1-2, Matt. 18:35, Luke 11:26)

Stop accusing now! Stop writing new laws that God did not write...it is like adding to God's Word and you will receive the plagues described in Revelations. And if you take away from God's Word, you will be plagued as well. (Rev. 22:18-19)

Zealot

Wow...while your basic message is right (we shouldn't judge others) you've written it in an extremely judgemental way. That doesn't make us Christians look very good. Think about the way you are representing Christ and His children before you write something like this.

In more direct response to the article, I agree that we should not continue to punish people forever and ever more. If they've done their time, they should have their slate wiped clean.

I just want to say thank you

I just want to say thank you for your comments. Only the people at church ever give me a chance.  I am having trouble just volunteering at my daughters school. I had a drug problem I did things I was forgiven for. When the Lord forgave me I then could forgive myself.  But I can't get any help for with food stamps or any aid. I have been clean and sober for 8 yrs. and I went to 18mo of drug and alcohol class, parenting classed, in house rehab. paid all fines and did my time. I am doomed in the eyes of socitity. In the eyes of GOD I am someone. Thank you Jesus and thank you for your comment.

 I'm a 27yr old single mother

 I'm a 27yr old single mother of a 2yr old and I am an alcoholic  / addict that is currently living with my mother sleeping in my 10yr old brothers room. I have tried and tried to find a job however no one wants to hire an ex-con another excuse is that I'm a female I couldn't do the work anyway. If I do get a job it's minimum wage with only 15hrs a week  so I can barely afford to even try and get my own place. I know that I have a disease so why should I be punished for it? You don't tell a cancer patient that they can't have a job so why is it this way with someone who has the disease of alcoholism or addiction? Most people wonder why ex-cons go in and out of the system well if they go in once they will never be able to provide for themselves or their families ever again. So the only way they can survive is to either steal so that they can feed their families or sell dope well guess that puts you right back into the system. I honestly think the government is crap because they turn their backs on people and they are just as corrupt as us except the only difference they haven't been caught. I struggle everyday thinking I'm a bad person because I've been to prison yet I will give someone the shirt off my back if they needed it more than I did.  

Your not alone excon. Keep it

Your not alone excon. Keep it up is all i can say.

 

Even the military discriminates against drug crimes. They will take people that murder and assault and have DUI's  but anything related to drugs is out.

response to 27 year old single mother

I am an addict in recovery. I used to search night after night for treatment. When I finally built up the courage to admit I had a problem and get help I was turned away for a zip code. I didnt reside in the area the treatment facility serviced and did not have the money to pay for treatment myself. I made a lot of bad choices. Some of those choices I would never tell a soul yet I feel I sold my soul to the devil in order to get by and be a mother and addict at the same time.I went to prison for 8 months. Like you, I am not able to get benefits because I have a drug conviction. I have been blessed to get by because my husband who was out of work for about 3 years pulled himself togetber and found a decent job. I sacrifice a lot of things but have what we need. I'm trying to say that it may not seem like it but it can and will get better. We are not "bad people" we just made bad choices. It sucks we are not allowed to live them down. I teach my kids the difference between bad people and bad choices. I think if we start there hopefully the next generation will not be so judgmental and harsh. I will pray for you and your family. Good luck and keep your head up.

Hello there! I know this is

Hello there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers Hurricane Shutters Paradise Island and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform

Yes, if you had' been the

Yes, if you had' been the only one on earth, Christ would have died for you.  You are that special; you are loved more than you can ever comprehend.  God's ways are not our ways; we may not understand what He is doing' but all works for good for those who love the Lord.  Remember, He came to prosper us and not to harm us.  My church helped me, also; although my circumstances are different (more serious false convictions after being targeted for decades) I will be homeless.  I am forced to leave all that I love behind, once again.  

I like you! You are one of

I like you! You are one of the first Christians I've ever seen that actually takes Jesus' words to heart. Thank you! I wish all these other so-called "christians" were like you. ATTN Christians: if you are confused about what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of non-judgement of others, here is a good example.

Reply to comment | StoptheDrugWar.org

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hypocritical sinners, really?

So what you're saying is we ignore the rule that the society made and whenever someone commit felony we should just forget it later because you believe it is what we should do since Christ died for our sins? I don't want to be as brutal as possible but what will you do if someday your mother was killed by a criminal, your wife together with your daughter was raped and killed? Then later the same person knocking at your door asking for help?  Basically since you said stuffs like when someone broke a manmade law and paid his manmade debt to the society it should be remembered no more, then I think you will just keep calm at the end of it and forget everything that happened and at least let him enter and give some comfortable clothes, warm coffee and some delicious breads, no? Oh how kind of you, you deserve to be proclaimed saint. Amen.

Tired of Hearing MURDERERS, RAPISTS...

Most convicts are not convicted of murder or rape or child molesting.  But here is what I think about it - If you are convicted of a crime in which you intentionally hurt someone - murder or rape or child molesting - the sentence should be life without parole or death.  Problem solved and no need for "collateral consequences".  If you are convicted of other types of crime - and there are HUNDREDS of more types of crime than murder and rape AND if you intend to give any other sentence than LIFE - then you have to give this person the opportunity to feed and support themselves and their family.  Period.  If they aren't going to be given that opportunity then just keep them forever.  All you are doing is putting people that you know will "go there" in a position where the only way they can make money is to "go there" again.  Right now my family is in this situation over stuff that happened 25 years ago and, seriously, we are considering an illegal enterprise just to put food on the table and pay the bills.  My children deserve to be financially supported by their father and society should feel he is OBLIGATED to do this - but apparently not.  Apparently, he doesn't deserve the job necessary to make that happen.  So when he has to do something "illegal" to support them - to buy them shoes for school or whatever - everyone will be screaming about repeat offender - 3 strikes...  I hate what America has become.  It is not the nation I grew up in.

Pendulum

With a change in the swing of the political pendulum, maybe some of the fascist draconian laws and sentencing structures will get a rereview.

America passed over that golden age that all civilizations have entertained about 50 years ago. Today, with globalization the aim of the small 3% who own or control 91% of the worlds resources' would be that profit margins do not include liberty, freedom, or the ability to be forgiven in a moral Godly way.

Pray, meditate, humm, sing, or whatever.........just get in touch with your elected officials and let them know what's on with the little people.

JMM

DRUG LAW BANS ON SOCIAL SECURITY, PUBLIC HOUSING, ROOD STAMPS, E

Don't people remember how people fought against unjust laws during the time of the Civil Rights Movement? The bans on federal benefits for people convicted of violating drug laws, as well as ex felons barred from voting, must fight for their rights the same way victims of segregation once did -- with not only demonstrations but sit-ins and other forms of civil disobedience. That way, the recommendations of study groups and blue ribbon commissions might actualy be followed by action!
Robert Halfhill rhalfhill@juno.com

can you apply for social security after you took cociane

This guy I know his wife took cocaine, and then now , she is a vegetable. Is their anyway she can collect social security disabilty. My opinion, is she should have to suffer without sociAL security disabilty . Because she had broke the LAW SHE TOOK COCAINE . wHICH TO ME, IS A BIG FEDERAL OFFENSE . SHE SHOULD ROT IS PRISON I think . And the one, who also SOLD IT TO (HER . i DON;'T THINK SHOULD COLLECT . i DON'T WANT ANY ONE LIKE, THAT COLLECT SOCIAL SECURITY OFF MY TAXS. after I work so, hard for the money. pinkpauper2821@yahoo.com

SHE TOOK COCAINE ...

Lets just leave her out in the weather to die, right? Hell lets not stop there, maybe she shouldnt even be allowed to eat? You NUT this is a human being! I guess it's alright that baby rapers and murderers are allowed all these benefits? She's already done her time. Idiots like you are the ones who need to be locked and the key thrown away!

can you apply for social security after you took cociane

People like you are very uninformed. Drug addiction is the only disease, yes I said disease (listed by the AMA) that you can get jailed for. Would you put some one in jail for civil unrest for cursing and yelling in public if they had turrets?

Have you ever read the legal arguments used back in he early 1900 to make drugs illegal? The arguments alone would be illegal if used today, the person presenting them would be sued.

The war on drugs has failed miserably, and if we only spent half the money on drug treatment and education as we do jailing people with non-violent drug convictions we would cut our addiction rate in half in one generation.

Lastly Sr. if you ever smoked a cigarette or have drunken alcohol then you are a hypocrite, because if either of those drugs were discovered today under the drug laws we have they would both be illegal. Check the statistics, alcohol does more damage to our society then all illegal drugs combined. If it were not for the money of lobbyists we would not choice for others what drugs are legal and what drugs are not. You might want to check if you are the one in the vegetative state.

Ugh, thank you

I just wanted to say thank you for looking at this with an intelligent approach. The hipocracy of our nation continues to astound me more and more each day. The idea that laws are harsher on those with addictions and small convictions as opposed to those who are violent and thoughtless is ludicrous. America's priorities are far from where they should be. Most of the drug laws we have today have only been supported and enforced thanks to brainwashed liars starting some form of hysteria. I'm glad someone has their head on right.

to the perfect person

i think its pretty sorry of you to think because she screwed up and messed herself up on coke!!!! i busted my ass my whole life and have payed my share of ssi taxes and now im disabled and have also been in trouble for pot, so just because you pay taxes dont mean that use people who are disabled and use drugs, hard or not, dont deserve to get the disabilty benifits!!!! everybody deserves a fair chance at a decient life, i was a very hard worker until i broke my back and i smoked pot to for years while i was working. you sound like a self-centered bastard to me.

You are a worthless,

You are a worthless, self-centered piece of sh*t. The sooner you are in the dirt the better off the world will be. Go to hell, you idiot.

We could slide some of that

We could slide some of that money from the MIC to social security and you would notice no tax increase.  We spend trillions on wars trying to protect the most vulnerable in other countries (often involving wars and contractors who make a killing...no pun intended) but will deny the humanity of our most vulnerable citizens.  I've lost my rights, also.  People complain about the lack of voters at the polls.  This is a big part of the reason why.

drug trackkfing

Just to let you all know that in the state of Alabama they will not issue life insurance as of yet. It's really a shame that you do your time for the crime.and it's still not good enough. You can't secure a future for your children if you have been convicted of drug trackking. This is the things that depress people with little faith to go back out and get into things. There has got to be some things changed about the way we as Americans do things. We are our own worst enemy , we are fighting against each other, and for wht let me guess. THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR.

All I can be is a Drug Dealer Stupid Government!

Seem's like all that I'm qulified for is being a drug dealer according to my own government. Thanks but no thanks life is really hard after you have been convicted of something so small that destroy's your life and there seems to be no way of fixing it. So thanks federal government for running my life. My mistake not your rights to hold me back.

I do not think anyone's plate should be wiped clean when...

the statistics clearly tell another story. DO not ask me to put my head in the sand & act like JESUS would when dealing with EX-CONs, in fact in Jesus day, you were hung on a Tree to die for stuff like that, may I remind you he never spoke a word against capital punishment. He allowed the state to decide this, read your Bibles please if you insist on using Jesus as your moral code. The staticts show up to 66% of drug offenders go back to it. SO if I am a little judgemental towards these people, I am simply using Common sense, knowing their is a very highly likely hood they will return to their crime. If one wants mercy and a new chance, one must have to EARN IT, and disclipline himself to NEVER go back that way, doing "time" saying nothing to me personally and obviuously does LITTLE for them --given the REAL statistics of this problem. It starts with the parents, too many broken homes, we need better examples. If a child is smart, he would never even start to smoke, let alone drugs. Are we not born with common sense either?

I do not think anyone's plate should be wiped clean when...

Do you not think that the barriers placed in front of someone convicted could possibly lead them back into crime? No student aid...no hope tax credit...poor family=no education. A ton of companies won't hire people convicted of any crime and even if people do get hired...with no education it is usually a low paying job with no benefits. So yes maybe 66% (as you said) do go back to crime, but, do they have many other options? As for your comment about a child being "smart" George Bush is an admitted former cocaine user and recovered alcoholic, Bill Clinton smoked pot, Barrack Obama smoked (cigs..no clue about anything else), and countless other people we would generally classify as intelligent have done some "dumb" things. I am also curious as to what you classify as "real" statistics. If you look at the bare numbers , without commentary, all the numbers point to the fact that policy and the current laws are the problem and not the criminals. The American Bar Assoc. has done just this and uses pretty simple logic to point out flaws in our drug policy without a lot of political spin or number doctoring. I would recommend you research some numbers or actually talk to someone convicted of a crime before you are so quick to judge. As far as people "earning" mercy and a new chance most of these people did. It is called PRISON and PAROLE/PROBATION. They commited a crime, were punished and released. It's over, done, finished. But, not really because they have to pay for it the rest of their lives.

plate wiped clean

What about the other 34% that do make it? I was convicted in 4-9-08 with my first time going to jail at the age of 32. Since then i checked myself into a inpatient program right after getting out of jail. Graduated the program and was let off probation 1 1/2 months because the judge saw i had no durties since 4/13/08 to present. Yes, there are some that do go back to using but what about the rest of us that are serious and will not ever use again. Should I suffer for one bad mistake in my life? I havent been able to get a job since the day I got out of jail. You wouldnt understand anyways since you never had a drug addiction. So its easy for you to use staticts.

      As a person that has a

      As a person that has a felony conviction and two children it is very hard. I cant find a job i dont get any assistance and thank god i have my family. I don't think it is right and i think for those of us that have reformed our selves and stayed clean good for you and keep it up i think that there should be stipulations but not to make it so hard for the ones who are trying and succeeding.

So someone that uses drugs is

So someone that uses drugs is not "smart"? It may not be a smart decision but that doesn't mean someone is dumb. Nobody really knows what caused a person to use. I'm a college grad with a 4.0 gpa. I have worked for my county's sheriff dept for 3+ yrs & now work 4 the federal gov. I used drugs for the first time in my early 20s partying with friends. Straightened up got a good job and doing well or so I thought. At age 34 found out I was pregnant told my common law husband of over a yr. 2 wks later he kicks me out saying he doesn't want anymore kids and nothing to do with us. We had custody of his only daughter, her older sister that he raised(whom found out not her real dad when she wanted to live with us & still wanted to live with us when she found out) his 2 nephews & my only daughter. 5 kids 3 not ours I was in disbelief. So I'm pregnant homeless and told after wks of ultrasounds that the baby is not going to make it. Would miscarry within few days. 3 MONTHS of miscarriage issues later I go into labor and deliver a stillborn standing at emergency room check-in. I was depressed, stressed, & suicidal. A girls nite out with cousin lead to a drugs take me away weekend which lead to a totaL fallout. I've slowed down but still use daily trying to detox myself now depression is getting better so not to lose my federal job. My point is don't judge. You never know the details that lead em to drugs. Yes very bad decision from a highly intelligent woman during the most trying time of her life. Regrets of course a criminal Hell no.

Actually, in Jesus' day

Actually, in Jesus' day self-intoxication was frowned upon but not a punishable offense. It has only been in the last century or so that intoxicants have been criminalized. Want to try again?

Then get rid of doing time,

Then get rid of doing time, if jail does not help, why have it?  If the person does not receive those things like grace and mercy after suffering in jail, why have it?   Losing all one's freedoms and being treated however the guard feels like treating you are very dangerous things to suffer when they do not count as part of redemption.  Your judgemental attitude concerning a disease is part of the reason some return to it.  We need compassionate laws.  Your statistics fail to include those who have been severely, if not permanently, harmed  by the laws and their enforcers supposedly implemented/hired to protect them.  

Get real. guilty for life?

I was convicted of a drug offense in 1999. Since then I did my time and went through a rehabilitation program. I started work with a new job during my rehabilitation and have successfully moved up in the company over the last 9 years, where I manage most every facet of the business.
Unfortunately, the crunch of the economy the past few months has hurt our business and we are close to closing the doors. I am still here trying to fix things if that is at all possible.
In the meantime, with my salary gone as well as medical benefits, I went down and applied for some relief in the form of food stamps. If only for a couple of months.
Half way through the phone interview I was asked about felonies. Embarrassingly, I answered that it had been in 1999. I was then told, had it had been before 1996 I would be eligible.
But after 1996 I was to starve instead?
God Bless America? Since when did you become so unforgiving?
Correct me if I am wrong but the guy who murders or rapes can get food stamps?
This is what happens in the USA?

Justice is for the corrupt!

I was approved for food stamps & even pell grant for college. Thing is, I am ready to graduate but can not because I need to do a co-op.Eveyone discriminates in some way or another. How about giving us Druggies a second chance at life?Clinton did a better job than Bush!

unfair to the families

I am the wife of a man who was unfairly convicted of a drug felony. The justice system made him plead guilty to a larger charge to avoid a trial and jail time. We couldn't afford the lawyer so he pled guilty. Boy if we knew then what we know now he probably would have taken his chances.
Does the government really not see that when you exclude a person from assistance that it hurts the other spouse and the children of the home. We are faced with a criminal past, no job possibilities and are trying to raise 2 children.
It is crazy to expect a criminal to become anything more than a criminal with the lack of forgivness. The only way to make a living with a criminal past is to do illegal activity or suffer the consequences (which we have done) . My family has struggled for years over this. All I have on this earth is love of my family and the knowledge that the poor someday will be wealthy in Gods kingdom. Do not judge me or anyone in these situations. You don't know what life circumstances that a person has gone through. You may have had a better life than these and you need to thank God for his grace and his mercy.

Life after drug conviction

My son came home over 3 months ago after 2 years in jail for a
federal drug conviction. This 27 year old kid cannot find a job anywhere
He comes from a middle class family he is polite, quiet and
considerate no tatts no wild looking appearance just a good
kid that did something really stupid. I cant believe that there would be so many problems for him to overcome. He is trying to get some aid to go to college but who knows how that will
turn out. His outlook for a job is bleak. His family is supportive
and we will help him as much as we can i.e a place to live a car for transportation money for personal items but he wants to become a independent productive man again I just dont know how he will be able to do that with all the laws against him. For all those people who think these drug offenders are just scum of the earth they are not. They are just people or kids who made a mistake.

Messed up

He who live without sin shall cast the first stone. Everyone in life has made mistakes and some not fourtunate enough to not get caught..so because someone makes a mistake...they live the rest of there life unable to get ahead, Its bull shit why is there so much crime in this world....hmmm can't better your life or make a change because nobody is willing to give second chances...Dam can you imagine what the world would have been like had all the hippies from back in the day got caught smokin dope half the friggin world would be homeless. America land of the free. Free to make choices, but unable to ever be forgiven seems like a double standered to me

This Should Apply to Certain Offenders

As a Police Officer in.....might I say a VERY populated city in the Northeast U.S. (you can probably narrow that down) I would have to agree that an addict who has served their time and who is trying to get back on their feet should be able to receive assistance. However, they should only have limited chances to do so. As most Law Enforcement Officers will tell you the user often uses the welfare money to buy drugs indirectly. ( by paying for the dealers groceries, and there are other ways around the system, too many to list). As for the dealer...they should never be allowed to received assistance once convicted. I can't count the number of times I have arrested one of these savages with thousands of dollars in their pockets. (and their benefit card is right in the middle of their huge wad). They provide poison to children and young impressionable women whom they get addicted to the whatever they are dealing. The women sometimes end up as prostitutes for these animals...and so goes the cycle that I witness everyday. They drive 80,000 dollar cars and have shoes that cost 400 dollars. When I started on my job the city I work for made sure we made just above the line to where we would not qualify for public assistance. (not that I want it, because I take personal responsibility and thank God that I have the ability to work). I guess what I am trying to say is the taxpayer should not have to pay for drugs indirectly if the user is not trying to help themselves after say three convictions. We taxpayers should never have to help a convicted drug dealer buy groceries when he or she is driving a car that cost as much as some peoples house. As for the Bleeding heart liberals who disagree with me.....Ill keep that in mind the next time your son or daughter comes from suburbia to buy heroin from "Mr. Oh he made a mistake lets please keep giving him free money because he has been oppresssed in the inner city".....Then where will your "convictions" lie......its all fine and dandy until it hits home and I've seen enough crying mothers to know how the story ends......................

Punishing the many to advert the few?

I do not live in "suburbia" but I am not surprised by the arrogance and insensitivity of your post. I supposed that indifference is a part of law enforcement training now days so that might be the excuse. We are not talking about "Mr. Oh he made a mistake lets please keep giving him free money because he has been oppressed in the inner city"..

The scenario you just mentioned is very stereotypical and hides racial prejudice in my opinion.. You are trying to justify an unfair law that targets not just inner city heroin dealers but young kids who sold a little pot or just made a very foolish mistake in general.. Also your point about seeing people driving cars that cost more than houses is not only suspect but irrelevant. That's like me saying that all police officers are oppressive because it pertains to the few. That would be unfair wouldn't it?

You are narrow minded and full of prejudice and unfair stereotypical opinions and obviously believe that drug dealers with big cars will be the people who are going to somehow take advantage of these government benefits and so forget everyone and their children because of a mistake that in most cases is NON VIOLENT. Also a rapist and a molester and ever a person that slaps his mother around is eligible, and that is o.k. with you? You will make a mistake sometime as an officer of the law and due to your narrow minded beliefs, I hope that you aren't given any special consideration or relief just because you are a police officer. You are just a person the same as everyone else and I would hope that EVERY TIME you break any law including but not limited to running a stop sign or illegally parking that you are held accountable. GOD BLESS!!

jumping to conclusions

First of all I would like to start off by saying that I am not indifferent nor is that stance taught to law enforcement officers. I just call it like I see it...and I see a lot of it. Second, I am not hiding any racial prejudices...... mainly because I AM BLACK, so what are YOU implying....and trust me, when I conduct stops on these poison dealers this fact is not lost because I never hear the "you are just stopping me because I am black" routine that many of my co-workers hear. on the other hand I arrest white and hispanic dealers as well..just not as many because my work area happens to be mostly black..so it is not a race thing...I just happen to work in the inner city...(where I also happened to be from) and happens to be a close drive to "suburbia"....where kids can come and get heroin cheaper...alot of whom through my personal debriefings..i have found.. become addicted by way of oxycontin and other powerful drugs prescribed by their white doctors in their white neighborhoods for some minor cause of pain...there should be some accountability on their part as well....and i agree with you in that you say drug dealers having expensive cars is suspect...but I say only on their part..because if you can afford and expenxsive car you dont need my tax dollars.... that was just a small example of the abuse...as for selling a little pot..you speak of this like everyone does it..well I grew up within 2 miles of where I police and my PERSONAL observations is that it starts with the parents..I never sold it or felt the need to...thanks to my strong willed SINGLE mother...although i do sometimes let the "pot smoker in the park" walk... Rapists and murderers should not get benefits either...that was an off hand attack on your part, where that came from I have no idea...the drug trade is VIOLENT on both ends..as the dealers shoot each other over territory in which to sell and users rob people and commit burglaries in which to support their habits.. I am not just saying that drug dealers should be the only people excluded from benefits, but it happens to be the topic at hand. I will be the first to say that our justice system is broken and I do not have all the answers..but I am entitled to my opinion as you are yours...you are right, I am a person like everyone else..I have struggles in life, I have made mistakes..do I speed a little when i am late for work? Do I not come to complete stops at stop signs ? yes on occasion I do....but i also let alot of people go for doing the same thing....its called discretion..however I never park illegally since you brought it up...we are not robots just because we put on a blue uniform....I have given up many holidays with my family so that I could make sure others had a SAFE holiday with theirs..I try to be active in the community I police and attend the community meetings to find out how I can better do my job.... There are bad cops out there and I believe in what comes around goes around..but its a struggle for us not to become too jaded with all that we see and deal with..I used to think becoming a cop..I would be able to save the day...everyday..but the reality is.. I just hope in my career that I can make a difference in as many peoples lives as possible..no matter how small that difference may be...GOD BLESS YOU AS WELL

Here's the reality, fellow tax payers:

A friend of a friend is a heroin addict with multiple drug convictions, a relatively functional one because she is usually able to hold down a job. She was laid off and is currently receiving unemployment benefits. She has been on a free methadone program for months yet she still continues to use heroin daily. She smokes cigarettes and has plenty of money for the cigarettes and her heroin/vicodin/oxycontin, car insurance, rent etc. but recently found herself unable to buy groceries. Instead of giving up one of her vices she applied for food stamps at the welfare office (in CA) she was turned down on the basis of her past drug convictions. I imagine she was only turned down now that CA is nearly bankrupt. She has no qualms whatsoever about abusing the system that is in place to help hungry children. Drug addicts and criminals need to be cut off completely.

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