Indiana is considering a bill that would allow people convicted of drug offenses in the state to receive food stamp benefits, according to the South Bend Tribune.
The federal food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), banned access for people with drug convictions in 1996, when the drug war was at its height; since then, it has been lifted in 40 states, Texas and Alabama becoming the latest states to so. Indiana is one of only 13 states still saying no to those convicted of felony drug charges when it comes to food stamps, according to WNDU 16.
The Indiana legislation, if implemented, would allow access to these benefits for people with previous drug offenses if they haven’t had a drug conviction within the past five years. An exception to the five-year rule can occur if a person applying for food stamps is receiving treatment and periodically tests negative for drug use.
The bill, introduced by State Sen. John Broden and co-authored by Sen. Luke Kenley, passed through the Appropriations Committee on Jan. 27 with a 13-0 vote. The result of a bipartisan effort, it will next move to the full Senate for a vote.
Broden had introduced the bill several times over the past few years, but it had never been granted a committee hearing. He believes that its overwhelming acceptance now reflects a growing change in the mindset of many legislative officials who are approaching drug crimes with a treatment, rather than a punitive, approach.
One of the main proponents of the bill was South Bend resident Cheryl Ashe, who has been fighting for food stamp benefits for drug offenders since 2009, when she saw the effects of the recession hit many people who were struggling with drug addictions while also unable to find food.
“It wasn’t their fault there was a recession,” Ashe told the South Bend Tribune. “They can’t get food stamps because of something that happened seven years ago. I thought it was so unfair.
“Hoosier values are helping people who are trying to help themselves,” she continued, using the common demonym for residents of Indiana.