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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.
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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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 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 for selling a little 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 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 are right, I am a person like everyone else..I have struggles in life, I have made 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 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.

diasabled trying to get state assistance for food and housing

i am a disabled have many health issues and just recently applied for food stamps in Texas, the interview was going fine until the case worker asked if i had any drug convictions that were a felony, i honestly answered yes the charge was almost seven years old next the case worker informed me that i was permanently disqualified, i talked with her a little more and she told me that her and some of her other co-workers had had the same discussion earlier why is it that a person can commit murder or rape and they are still eligible for assistance
why cant they come up with a solution like if you have served your time and are no longer on any type of probation or parole,you could be eligible with the stipulation that a convicted felon with prior drug charges would have to be willing to submit to random drug test
i think if you have paid your debt back to the judicial system and you are willing to submit to a drug test that you could be eligible for food stamps and be also eligible for low income housing
i know that i myself who struggles every month with an income of less than seven hundred dollars paying five hundred for rent making a car payement of one hundred and fifty dollars have only twenty eight dollars left for food and prescriptions gas for the doctors visits
heck why not just make it a mandatory requirement for getting the help
drug tests all applicants can you imagine how much money the state could save a using drug addict will not want to test hence putting a halt on all those who have yet to be caught from getting and then selling so they can continue to use

Is there any good solution?

Honestly I'm a college student that has mostly read or heard about the drug scene and not been too much of an active participant to know a ton about the ins and outs of the whole thing but I do know it sucks getting caught especially with drugs like
Marijuana. I have studied the physical aspects of drugs with regards to their addictive natures and understand how hard it is to give up a drug but have never actually been chemically addicted to an illegal drug. I don't know what it's like to crave something so bad to have the ability to disregard all concerns I have for people in my life or any other aspect of my life. I do know, like a few of the people have been saying here, that you shouldn't cast stones unless you are without fault or sin or whatever you want to call it. I know I have made mistakes in my life and have learned from them but like "This Should Apply to Certain Offenders" and "Here's the reality, fellow tax payers:" both explain, not everyone learns from their mistakes in the same way. Some of us learn by vowing to never do ___drug again then others of us learn by becoming even more cunning and clever and work the system for all it's worth.
One solution for this is to simply cut all social programs that enable this process to continue so tax payers aren't paying for drug addicts' well-being and police officers aren't having to chose between their and their family's well-being and ignoring the crimes that are being committed in plain sight. This solution will never pass because we as a country depend on these social programs to keep us afloat no matter how much they drain the economy or break down the meanings of responsibility, accountability, and personal accomplishment this country was built on. Another solution is a check-in process where if you're convicted on drug possession charges, you do the time and everything but at 5 year marks after you get out, you get drug tested (hair, blood, piss what ever is available) and if your tests are positive, you loose coverage and get a fine for wasting the government's time and money (I'm thinking in the $3,000 range for the fine). Enough times of having that, I would hope people would wake up and realize they need to seek help, which we offer, or just stop doing the drugs. And repeats of this 2nd time the fine is $10,000, 3rd, $15,000, 4th, $20,000 and so on. This 5 year check-in process continues until the person either dies or they go 50 years without a drug conviction. I'm sure there are other solutions; these are the most useful and unbiased ones I could come up with right now.

I pray to God you are not in

I pray to God you are not in the business of making laws, social services, substance abuse, poverty reform or law enforcement.  Where in the world did you hear that substance abuse treatment is provided to people without funds?  Many go without.  What you suggest would only disenfranchise further those who need more help to succeed, not less.  Throwing 20,000 fines at people who cannot afford to pay for food...really?  The Justice System is already overloaded with these kind of transactions, while the rich and the privileged are seldom charged or convicted.

Retroactive Application of 1996 Welfare Reform Act

It would seem to me that any convictions involving drugs prior to the passage of 1996 Welfare Reform Act could not be used to disqualify you from food stamps since that would be applying the law retroactively. Any opinions?

Starting a New Life

Why shouldn't someone be afforded an opportunity to better a change their lives? Not every crime committed is so black and white that a convicted person should then have to suffer their entire lives without benefit like a murderer or big time Pablo Escobar type drug lord. There are grey areas and for those that take measures to change their life should be able to receive the benefits to come to all productive citizens.  Without these opportunities, as pointed out, these people will suffer their greatly exaggerated and unfair consequences consequences all the way to their graves. So, without blaming one group or sect of people, why can't there be changes made such as those offered by other groups that are more fair and provide for reformed offenders? After all, look at all the ex criminals that have went on to lead lives that aim help keep others out of trouble or change the course of negative activities with others or even drug users and sellers that have then reached out to the drug community through things live possibly running homes for drug users to clean up and then gain a productive life themselves?

Who Is Really In The Position To Make the Call

We all know that our government has the higher hand on laws and policy making. But the question is "who really has the upper hand on deciding who is elgible for health care and government assistance?" I think that it's easy for the government officials and policy makers to make a quick law or policy expiditing someone out to not receive help because they don't have to deal with the issues or problems that the person may go through in the long wrong. They have money, power, and of all their Health Care is free. If they had a family member who committed a crime or considered to be an ex con will they then see the true colors of how these policies and laws make a tremendous affect on people who really needs them.


Health Care should be provided to everyone regardless of their circumstances. But this will not be achieved until we have people who stand up and fight for their rights that were given to us by our four Founding Fathers and most of all God. God made us all human and not judge one another and put stipulations on each other. Because we have people who have money and power the laws and policies are made up and continue to point towards to certain ethnicities and cultures, although they (government) state that they apply to all who are in the position of the other side. My final words are that there is always a way around the law regardless of what the laws and policies state. If someone of power and money feel like someone should have or not have the priviledge to government assistance and health care they are going to give it to them regardless of what the law or policy states. They wrote the laws and policies, they most definitely can work their way around them, if need be.

to the people paying taxes and whining about drug users

you so-called straight laced people need to understand that even alot of drug users can also be hard workers!!! i worked hard for many years until 3 years ago when i broke my back. i payed taxes like you and now that i cant work and still use pot (like its your damn business) you think i should have nothing now? i think maybe people who like to judge others should suffer what you think disabled drug users deserve!!! if you people are church goers then you know to judge others is a sin so maybe you should suffer the same as you want us to!!!

It is obviously unjust to

It is obviously unjust to continue to punish a person for a crime for their entire life. Once they have paid their due by prison or probation or whatever punishment they received, they should be free. They should be allowed the same freedoms as others have to better themselves and their families. This system of lifetime bans receiving cash assistance and food stamps is completely unjust and hurts innocent children as well.

Law making ignorance everywhere especially in virginia

This is a very serious issue .Yet this is how and why an country so powerful was built off the illegal trades of drugs and alcohol. Nobody speaks on these large businesses whom were built on illegal drug sells. That are still functioning today. This in itself is a crime towards society yet it continues on. It has never been a war on drugs here in America. Its been about control. There has been over 3 billion years of time given out for drug charges. these men and women either used or sold drugs. yet they were released back into society after serving the said punishment. But will never get grants to further their education or start up legit businesses. because these people have the potential to create more jobs and more productivity from people with these hardships. nobody wants to admitt that it makes more sense to give an individual convicted of drug charges an grant for education or business. But its social equality says not to. they will only become greater drug dealers,users,or commit other crimes against society like begin broke and cant support themselves or family. While realistically speaking according to the mine state of our law makers it makes more sense to give these grants to rapist whom always gets lesser time for crimes like mentally destroying your daughter,your son,your grandchildren,your mom your sister your brother your cousin your children(s) children,you... priest do it,entertainers do it,law makers do it,congressmen do it,teachers do it, police do it(Rape/molest). Yet its nothing because they did not make money off of their crime without paying taxes on it. Somebody over dosed. Somebody committed  an b and e somebody robbed a store, somebody got killed over drugs. But CNN proudly with NBC shows these predators violating our young and makes it national known that hey we see this. people overdose from drugs everyday on the streets at home at the hospital. drug dealers try to sell drugs everyday some people are harmed because of this and many recover. but our family and friends whom have been violated sexually fight to get the nasty feeling off fight to block it out. turning themselves into walking time bomb .That will one day blow up and cause harm to something or someone. to all reading this I'm pretty sure you would rather walk into a place of business own by a ex- drug user or dealer. than to walk into a day care ran and own by the next person aired by CNN,NBC, or FOX for raping someone whom now the search for their body becomes the nationally known. yet they just go register every whatever months out of an year and check in to jail every Oct 31. yet the they can get a grant to continue their savage ways with new help and benefits 

same old shhhhhhh

A man convicted of drug charges in 1993 serves 12 years in prison. After his release he embarks on different job searches hr finds a few odd jobs. yet he desires to further educate himself. so that he can become a productive citizen and one day own his own business. Yet do to his crime of drugs he is not allowed to partake in the free help provided by the federal government. Hes turn down more times then the devil trying to get back in heaven. he then struggles to succeed only to fail again . no way to pay bills or provide for his self or family. He resorts back to what he knows will provide help for his family. funny huh keep listening. A man goes to jail for raping an 6 year old girl. hes given 5 years he serves 18 months in jail. After his release he desires to further his education and to get a start up job. After a few job turn downs he strikes big with a job. Then he applies for an grant and receives it to further his education. He does good in school networks a lot reapplies for an federal grant to open a business and gets it. the business he opens up is an mom and pop store. after 2 years hes doing great the kids love him the parents respect him. 9 kids report him saying or touching them in an negative fashion. 10 weeks later 3 of the 9 are missing now 8 of the 9 are missing and their bodies are being recovered with their parents being blame then the 9th one goes missing only to escape with her life after being raped for days on end by this man that everybody loves and respects. The police say they had no way of knowing he would do this. But they knew the first guy would do what ever to provide for his family. he was later caught for drugs again and sentence to 65 years while the rapist was sentence to life without the chance of parole. People wake up, just like guns dont kill people ,people kill people. Ex-Drug dealers and users dont want to go back to prison to provide for their families but they will and 9 times out of 10 the do. Thank you law makers for creating more crime  

First-hand experience

I was born with a birth defect that required 13 recontructive surgeries to attempt to fix it.  These surgeries all took place from 6 months to 18 years of age, and by the time I reached 18 years old I was addicted to pain medicine.  Naturally as a young person, I sought out others who were drug users, and soon moved in with a 23 year old friend.  She and I did a lot of drugs, and we always shared.  One night I came home and shared some drugs with her, she shared some drugs with me, and we both went to sleep.  She never woke up again.  I was charged and convicted with drug dealing...a class B felony.  Keep in mind I had just turned 18 years old and was very immature. 

Now I am 28 and almost done with my bachelor's degree.  However, I am growing more and more anxious about how I am going to pay back these student loans...when no one is going to want to hire me with this conviction.  And yes, you CAN get student aide from the government if you have a drug conviction.  You just have to complete a drug rehab program (which I did successfully) and the offense cannot have occured while you were receiving federal funding for school.

I am a mother of 2 children.  I have held the same job for 4 years and have been going to school full time for the past 2 1/2 years.  I am a normal, productive member of society that donates to charity, grows my own garden, and participates in my children's recreational activities (basketball, karate, soccer).  I am not on welfare, never have been, nor do I think I need to be.  Not that there is anything wrong with welfare, but it should only be reserved for those that cannot provide for themselves.  I am ready to start a new, meaningful life in which I can be a role model for my children, be a contributing member of my community, and land a job that I can be proud of.  However, I am a convicted 'drug dealer'.  Now tell me, how do I have the same chance at life as my peers that were not thrown into drug addiction from childhood?  Because I was born to 2 teenage parents who were also drug addicts...does that mean I don't deserve a second chance now that I have taught MYSELF the correct way to live?  Please, someone explain to me how this is reality?

Felony drug convictions & Assaults & Federal Aid

I need help understanding how to get many forms of federal aid with a felony (marijauna) drug conviction and felony and misdemeanor assaults on my record. I made a lot of mistakes when I was young and now I want to have a family and go to college to get back in the workforce. I currently live in Nebraska and am thinking of moving, but depending on how the programs work, I'm still not sure where I'd have the best chances. I'm on SSI disability and so is my soon to be wife. We need to know if there is a way that we can get section 8 anywhere, pell grants, student loans, hope scholarship credit, cash assistance to families and also food stamps. I've heard that in some states if you take a drug treatment program, you can qualify again. Is this true, how do you find out what type of program is good enough to qualify to be elgible for aid again? Any guidance would be appreciated.

give us a break

Give us a break already yes its so true that people make mistakes check this out i don't want to get all religious on you but mistakes have been being made since creation and guess what God has forgiven and men and women have went on dig that the hypocrites that founded this country on religion can put "In God We Trust " On a bill but cant implement God own Forgiveness what a bunch of you know what that this country is going thru yes as you can tell I'm one of those that has a back ground and not only are you discriminated against for your background for housing but jobs and a whole bunch of other things i have served my time doing probation now and I'm homeless  now looking for work in the Great city of Chicago but i keep hitting dead ends there are so many employers that benefit from tax dollars but do not give a individual like me a fighting chance it almost makes people like me want to turn back to the streets at times but today i refuse YES I NEED HOUSING AND A JOB IF ANY ONE OUT THERE IN CYBER LAND KNOWS AN SECOND CHANCE PEOPLE OR COMPANIES HIRING IN CHICAGO E-MAIL ME AT [email protected]

Thank you,

May God bless everyone not just the ones that say they never made a mistake.


Kent B. Barns 

michigan opted back in the 1996 drug reform act

Just want to say that I have been receiving food benefits since 2000. I received my drug conviction in 2004 and still was receiving benefits. I just recently did my yearly determination and was approved once again.  Then, 2 weeks later I was in receipt of a letter that stated that I was permanently disqualified for food assistance due to the 1996 drug reform act. Oh, are they cutting back because most Michiganders receive some sort of federal or state assistance. No, lets just single out the drug offenders who have felonies.  It doesnt matter that u r a tree jumper a murder welfare frauder etc etc no just the drug offenders who by the way most come by honestly.  It is a disability that each and every day we struggle with.  I know that there are ones that sell their cards to purchase drugs but all in all someone is still receiving food benefits.  I am compelled to steal from stores to be able to eat.  U can only receive food from the food bank once a month and only for 3 days.  Soup kitchens, well how in the hell am I suppose to get there.  I am currently unemployed and in dire search for employment.  I have enuf barriars and enuf struggles finding employment now I will either end up dead or with another conviction for robbery either of someones household or business so that then at that point I can eat and then when locked up I will be fed as well.  Is this the real solution congress Fuck u and ur fridge.

Judgemental blowhards,self righteous ignorance..

One thing you self righteous judgemental ignorant scumbags didnt think about or consider is the FACT that we werent all born with a silver spoon and golden cup in our hands ... The truth is ,some of us grew up in a disfuctional family,or had no one at all that could teach us the way "normal" society expects a person to (pose)...I use the word pose, because thats what i believe 90% of everyone does especially early in adult life...    we pose as the "upstanding citizen then do what we want behind closed doors , my num of 90% dont mean i believe that everyone commits felonies or that everyone uses alcohol or drugs, but my point is that none of us are perfect                                                                                                                                      ,    Everyone in my opinion has broken a man made law either big or small at some point in their life...most people in my opinion have probably broken many along the path of life but never got caught...and i would be willing to bet that alot of the extremely judgemental hippocrites who commented on this thread were the ones who got away with the most small crimes and did more dirt  behind closed doors than you can imagine ... To me the drug laws especially, in this nation are absurd. The complete structure and design of the laws in place that continue to punish a felon for a life time and designed to kick you when your down...those laws being inforced should be a felony... For alot of people its a ocean of quicksand that was purposely put there to make sure the prisons stay over crowded because for some people like myself, a man that grew up with only my god given concience to guide me on my journey thru adolesance into adulthood.... combine that with a very small drug infested town with no jobs and its the perfect recipe for misery,pain ,depression,and addiction that returned me to prison over and over again ,because with these laws in place i cant find steady employment,rent an apartment,or recieve food stamps even if i was starving to death..all the years i spent in prison for possession charges has me $ 90,000 behind on child now that i finally am out of that godforsaken town and doin my best to actually BE the upstanding citizen...these heartless law makers...suspended my drivers licence because of my huge mountain of money im behind on my child support...if thats not taken the steel toe boots straight in the teeth then i dont know what is ....behind on the money they so desperately want to rip from me.... not caring if i eat or have a roof on my head,so whats their brilliant plan...take my licence away...kick me back down...                                                                                                                                                 with that being said..I just have comfort knowing that god will punish those true criminals"THE LAW MAKERS" that premeditated then spun this web of insured and certain defeat for thousands of people who were born into discord ,had no mentors or simply made a bad dicision and ended up with the the disease   of ADDICTION..a disease that will not let go...until jail ...prison....or DEATH!!!                                            Everyone makes mistakes...but the heartless deceivers who place lifelong obstacles in the path of a person struggeling just to live, those are the true criminals and the lord who created us all will handle their fate....

Well said!

Well said!

FBI Background Check with A Federal Conviction

My problem is a little different than most that have posted here. I was convicted of Conspiracy in a DEA bust that occurred 32 years ago in 1981. I was 25 years old at the time. I ended up having to serve 4 months in a Federal Prison. My record was sealed and I have been able to vote, sit on jury's, and even be a Guardian to my friends children after she passed away.

I recently got a job at a Professional Guardian Agency. Although my position was administrative phones, paperwork, computer ect...I still needed to pass the high level of background check that is required. On the FBI check they found that I had an FBI number as a result my record was unsealed and I got called into a hearing for the Probate Court, that over sees this area. As a result I am not allowed to go back to my position even though I had been there for 9 months prior to this being revealed. I have since been in contact with at least 4 different lawyers. Until yesterday being told that short of the President of the United States giving me a pardon that I can not return to my job! 

This is how I came upon this site, to see if this terrible scrutiny is affecting other people in the same way that it just did to me. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate your input. I live in South Florida.


Thank you

Stupid. I have a recent

Stupid. I have a recent Masters degree and I havent touched drugs since i got caught 7 years ago. That was dropped due to first time drug offenders program. But I also had a petty theft from a couple years before that, which stuck. Yes that theft was stupid, put my family in a lot of stress dealing with court and jail. I was depressed and had a caring family but lot of negativity around me, so i fell into drugs, which is my own fault. Boy, i am glad to be out. after years of trying to find a job and being turned down....i have honestly lost hope..mite as well make money selling drugs, because thats all the government wants people like me doing. Hence, the high rate of repeat offenders. People who arent in our situation will never understand. Until enough people are in the same situation, i dont think theres gonna be any improvement. There are a lot of people in the same situation, just not enought, but the numbers are rising, so hopefully govt will fix it eventually. Maybe not, cuz somehow they probably make more money convicting addicts...iono, play the waiting game some more? Or hit the streets?

Thank you for always being there for me

 MIKE JANEMy name is MIKE JANE from USA. i want to use this opportunity to thank great Dr.ehizojlespiritual  who really made my life a pleasurable one today. He brought my husband back to me, i had a lovely baby boy for my husband, about a year ago i and my husband has been into one quarrel or the other until he finally left me for one lady. i felt my life was over and my child thought he would never see his father again. i tried to be strong just for the my our son but i could not control the pains that torments my heart, my heart was filled with sorrows and pains because i was really in love with my husband. Every day and night i think of him and always wish he would come back to me, until one day i met a good friend of mine that was also in a situation like me but her problem was her ex-boyfriend who she had an unwanted pregnancy for and he refused to take responsibility and dumped her. she told me that mine was a small case and that i shouldn't worry about it at all so i asked her what was the solution to my problems and she gave me this great man phone number and his email address. i was doubting if this man was the solution, so contacted this great man and he told me what to do and i deed them all, he told me to wait for just 24 hours and that my husband will come crawling on his kneels just for forgiveness so i faithfully deed what this great man asked me to do and for sure after 24 hours i heard a knock on the door, in a great surprise i saw him on his kneels and i was speechless, when he saw me, all he did was crying and asking me for forgiveness, from that day, all the pains and sorrows in my heart flew away,since then i and my husband and our lovely son are happy. that why i want to say a big thank you to DR.ehizojlespiritualhome , This great man made me to understand that there is no problem on earth that has no solution so please if you know that you have this same problem or any problem that is similar, i will advise you to come straight to this great man. you can email him:[email protected]

help need answers

My husband served sixteen yrs for manslaughter and cooking of meth. I was wondering if its so lo.g ago that section 8 will allow him on in ca? [email protected]

Why would only drug offenders

Why would only drug offenders with no current drug use be considered? If you are an alcoholic you're fine why are other drugs treated so differently? It really is ridiculous. Making mountains out of molehills.

Accused is enough to ruin you

Accused of of a felony was enough to end my career.


spanked my son, because of him stealing and running around all night as a 11 year old.

He wasn't listening, talking, or changing his behaviour.

I was single parenting, worthless problem of an ex-wife.

Paying 99% of all child expenses. Got a token child support payment, the courts would NOT raise.

All her excess money went to her other two children, that she dumped on her 2nd husband.


And being charged with a "violent" felony ended a 30 year career.

HR departments just drop your application in the trash or if you are lucky enough to have an interview

call you out or it for a moment and walk you to the door.


Now I am suffering from fibromyalgia  that is destroying my ability to do almost everything.

Without good insurance or savings, and no family left.

Without a great girl friend (that I have known for 40 years), I would be homeless.


And my son is ? almost 30 yrs old without a college degree (could have on a athletic scholarship)

Did a hitch in the Air Force, wasn't able to re-up, and out with minimal job skills.


The ex ? I think she is looking at divorce #4 and taking someone else to the cleaners.

the majority of drug laws. ...

Honestly, the majority of drug laws will not change in our life time. Its fact... not because of any far right citizens, or because of any CNN coverage, but simply because we are a capitalist nation. The majority of the legal systems money (police, courts, lawyers, stenographers, etc, etc) comes from capturing, convicting, punishing, and imposing fines upon drug offenders, which is by far the crimes most dealt with. That doesn't even take into count the drug testing facilities, drug treatment centers, social workers, jails, prisons, etc, ad naseum, that all reap a heavy profit from drug offenders moving through the system. Many repetitively. For the courts and Lawyers especially as they can and will often collaborate with each other to intimidate (prosecution) or convince (defense council) the offender to take a bargain for a guilty plea, which nets the money without the expense of a trial or multitude of hearings and motions. The government saves billions (yes... that's with a B) on denying aid and resources to the largest subset of its citizens that will apply for most of said resources. It is true that you can get all the justice you can afford, which for the vast majority of the drug offending population is not much. Yes their are many different circumstances, and not every addict is a threat to society, and not every drug dealer is the same. And even though it is a monetarily motivated cycle, a lot could be changed with a case-by-case determination and imposition of what exactly each offender can and can not have access to based on how likely to re-offend, how much of a threat to society they are, and what steps they are taking to change their circumstances, as judged by a court or other agency. Unfortunatly there is simply not enough time in a day or people employed to tackle a burden like that, so the offenders are stacked into fairly black and white catagories and submitted to blanket guidelines of punishment. Right or wrong is not the issue, simple reality is. The fact of the matter is that WE allowed all of this to happen. We are a rebublic, and through our voting choices (or lack of) we elected our representatives, we did not impeach (fire) them when their policies didn't align with the majority, or we simply didn't care to act when it mattered. (Im speaking as a whole, i realise many were not alive a certain historical points,have differing views, etc.) We live in the society we allowed to happen.... either by choice or simple inaction, because obviously the people who voted against these policies, or. Organized against them didn't/don't have the support to stop them. I appreciate the time you took to read this, and i sincerely apologize for my appalling sentence structure. For the record, i am a drug felon.

the end of my life

i just wanted to tell my story because i have nothing to look forward to anymore. I have always been a hard worker and took pride in everything i did and was recognized for a job well done at every job i had. Because of so called random testing (24 times in a single year) i have lost a job that i was meant to do until i retire but that will never be. I had held a class A license for 20 plus years and operated all types of heavy equipment with not one incident or accident but am now banned for life at obtaining a class a license again. Its been 6 years now and i have been turned down for every job possible because of my past actions. My thing is that yes i was using drugs the entire time and training coworkers to obtain classs A licenses and not until that random test did anyone know that anything was different. Where is the justification for taking the past 25 years of hard work from someone? My life is basically over now and it doesnt really even matter anymore.  i guess i deserved all of this


Not true! Drug charges have a better chance of being expunged- especially if you had only one. Drug diversion programs and drug courts see to that. I know someone who had a felony drug possession (crystal methamphetimine) at 18- went to drug court- and later had it expunged. This guy was a high school drop out, drug abuser- WELL after his initial arrest/diversion. He got into a head on collision w/ a cop car one New Years night (I know- I was there). He was deemed to be responsible (though that really wasn't the case- the officer ran the light....but who would believe us over him?!). The officer ran the red light- but was able to blame the other guy. That other guy was with me when I was arrested for my felony battery- with serious bodily injury (though there was NO SERIOUS BODILY INJURY). It was later reduced to simple battery during pretrial conference. And even though he was with me, and was my key eye-witness, the police, prosecutor, and public defender didn't question him. I had never been arrested, was a college student, and pursuing a career in Law Enforcement. I was never offered a 'diversion' (that was back in 1987). I applied for, and received California's version of an 'expungement' (1203.4 pc). But that misdemeanor battery kept coming up throughout my life. I wasn't hired for a number of jobs; was fired from a few others. I was, essentially, shelved at 22 years old. My life was over; for all intents and purposes. Going from menial job to menial job. At 43 I decided to get up and do something. I applied for a NSF-STEM Scholarship and received it. I also finished my B.S. in the Natural Sciences. I am now 50; and am still trying. That person I used to know; he's now a Paramedic. Not sure how he did it. But you can't find his felony drug possession anywhere. But that misdemeanor 'pushing match' (and that's all it was) still follows me today. "Fair and equal treatment under the law" MY A$$!! THAT IS A LIE!!! It's all about politics and fear of liability. That is ALL it is! And they don't care who they destroy. 


Oh- same state, same time period. His was a felony drug possession; mine was a misdemeanor battery. They were both in California- in the 80's. 

P.S. before you PAY for a 1203.4 pc, KNOW THIS- it's just a way for California to make revenue. It's NOT an expungement. Read the small print. California is absolutely scared to death of potential liability- even if the person is innocent. California doesn't have a problem throwing it's citizens under the bus. The reason they have 'sancuary cities'- so they can keep their cheap labor. That is ALL! California is a 'sleaze pit'. So is Arizona. But Washington state is up there too. 

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