Food-stamps-for-felons bill draws DeVore’s ire

An East Bay Assemblyman’s bill to let drug felons get food stamps after their release from prison passed the Assembly floor today, but not without taking some heat from a lawmaker seeking higher office.

The Assembly voted 42-23 to approve AB 1756, the Transitional Assistance for Re-Entry Programs Act, by Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. Existing federal law permanently bars drug-related felons from receiving food-stamp benefits, but allows states to opt out of the ban through legislative action; that’s what this bill would do. Elsewhere, 14 states have eliminated the ban entirely, and 21 have modified the ban so those with certain drug felony convictions can get food stamps and cash assistance.

Said Swanson:

“California currently spends over $8 billion on prisons, and spending is on track to surpass the higher education budget within the next four years. We cannot begin to address this problem without implementing programs that help former offenders successfully re-enter society.

“If a person’s most critical needs are not met when they re-enter society after being in prison, they won’t be able to successfully return to their communities. In fact, without basic support, many of them will be inclined to return to criminal activity and drug use instead of attaining sobriety and gainful employment. The recidivism rate in California is at an astonishing 70 percent. It is hypocritical for the Legislature to say we are interested in stemming the spiraling prison population while we continue to release prisoners without addressing some of their most basic needs upon re-entry.

“California’s restrictive policies are inhibiting its access to federal monies. AB 1756 will tap into more of these federal funds, which will support agriculture, sales tax revenue, reduce the state’s recidivism rate, and provide fundamental services to families.”

But Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine – a candidate vying for the GOP nomination next month to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in November – voted and spoke against the bill, calling it Democrats’ most recent attempt to weaken welfare-reform measures signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

“Giving felony-level drug dealers government funds with no strings attached undermines the very concept of holding them accountable for their actions,” DeVore said in his news release. “With just 12% of the nation’s population residing here, California is home to 32% of the welfare recipients in the United States. We should be encouraging Californians to become self-reliant, not enlarging the welfare rolls with convicted felons. Each dollar given to drug felons is a dollar that could go to an out of work family with children to care for.”

The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • John LAPD Retired, now a Texan

    you gotta be kidding me! California is broke, Los Angeles (per the Wall Street Journal) will be broke by 2014-yet, the idiots in Sacramento wanna give our money to Felons!


  • Ralph Hoffmann

    The fault for CA’s finances is the incumbents who didn’t build surpluses when times were good. THROW THE BUMS OUT OF OFFICE; EVERY ONE OF THEM!!!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Felons wouldn’t need food stamps if they were employed doing the work of illegal immigrants.

  • Ed

    Ihave been an excon now for over 3 yrs and survive with a minimum wage job. I have served my time and payed my debt to society. I am an ex felon who is now a productive member of society who needs these foodstamps and benefits, but because a holes like you think you’re perfect and never make mistakes, I am a U.S. born citizen who pays taxes, what makes you better than me? I had a bad turn in life, everyone does. Some people get away with worst and some people receiving benefits who don’t even really need them.

  • MEO

    If incompetent blue collar bums get off their asses and do their jobs by enforcing the illegal immigrant laws and maybe us americans can have a chance at getting a decent job and maybe we wouldnt have somany felons. Afterall, what makes a felon? When an ex-con pays his debt what does food stamps got to do with it. If thats a second penalty, then thats double jeopardy!! I have worked harder than alot of people on food stamps I feel I deserve some of the payback, especially in this rediculuous economy.

  • Robert Peterson

    I have been clean since being released from prison,
    I found work, lived in a halfway house the first year
    and eventually found a good paying job. I was promoted
    to supervisor of a 2 1/2 million dollar contract, when the contract ended I was laid off, my unemployment benefits ran out and I have still not found any work,
    Any kind of work whatsoever, I can’t pay my bills,
    and was denied food stamps because of my drug conviction. Child molestors, thieves, people who do
    identity theft can get food stamps, I was convicted of
    manufacturing a controlled substance. How is that worse
    than being a child molestor? I have nothing to eat
    and thinking about shoplifting some food thanks to
    the rediculous laws discriminating against certain felonies and not others. These stupid laws make
    no sense whatsoever. If someone would hire me I’d
    be working. I did my time changed my life and now
    am considering crime only because I need to eat.

  • Kathryn

    I could not agree more with Robert Peterson! I however, did not go to prison for a drug abuse problem I went for making money with drugs so it all goes hand and hand right?
    So here I am 35 years old and PREGNANT. The last baby I had was 20 years ago! I had my own pretty LUCRATIVE business yet, the only way I made money was when I performed a service therefore, I found myself in the position of asking the state (OF WHICH I PAY TAXES TO) for some assistance with food. Little did I know that there was this law written by the very people (republiCANT’S) that “CLAIM” to believe in “Life” “(Pro-Lifer’s)” wrote to DENY someone (that HAS ALREADY BEEN PUNISHED ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF THE LAND), FOOD I mean, if that is NOT the ABSOLUTE MOST INHUMANE WAY TO TREAT SOMEONE!!!!!
    What kind of world do we live in when a PEDOPHILE is allowed food assistance and an PREGNANT woman CAN NOT even get assistance with FOOD???

  • I have been out of prison since 2008. The first time I got out i got help with food stamps , I never abused that privelage. because I am drug free. Also I have a disability I have’nt been diagnosed yet but sometimes i forget what I’m doing. On a few ocasions. I have started my car, but left it running for hours, when I drive I get confused and can’t remember where I was going.What used to be easy to remeber is now getting more difficult to hide. I blame no one else but myself for being in prison. It’s a shame that illegal aliens have more rights than I do. Also it’s shamefull that the goverment can just take something away because of a few bad apples.

  • Kathryn

    A VERY BIG SCREWED UP MESS! Taxpayers pay taxes so immigrants can get assistance but not felons? Discriminating! Discriminating!. Immigrants can go home and there will be more jobs and financial aid to help our own, wronged or right. As far as I’m concerned, there should only be food banks and everyone can wait in line or get help from the local churches and goodwills. What a mess!

  • kaye l

    I spoke with my sister today and she informed me that she was denied food stamps because she was a felon. She was convicted of drug trafficking about 7 years ago and wrongly convicted as she was just a drug user who used proberly 10 dollars a day on drugs, was busted having drugs, but personal use drugs. she was sent to Chowchilla Prison where she did 3 months and they realized that she wae there under a false conviction and sent her to rehabilitation for a year to serve her time. She has been clean and because of that false conviction, she cant find a job and now she can’t get aide to feed herself. I don’t understand how this law can be a life binding law. She deserves a chance to have a life. What is wrong with our government. Who made them God? I wish they would live a month homeless and see what it is like to see hardtimes, and maybe they would be a little more humble and realize that one day it may happen to them. This law should be revisited and people should only be denied on individual basis. If a person has not been in jail or in trouble in over 5 years and have been doing well in society, or as well as society will let them. I think we as a society should give them a chance to be someone and stop holding them to slavery for the rest of their lives.

  • brenda hunt

    why not violent offenders why not sex offenders why drug offenders? this law is arbitrary it singles out people what does a drug charge have to do with food stamps anyway? I have a 15 year old first offense charge that I did my punishment and haven’t been in trouble since. Now when I’m in desperate need I’m being cut off. I don’t get it.