Indiana should end drug offender food stamp ban (copy)

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Sometimes you just have to ask, what the heck were we thinking?

That question pops immediately to mind when you consider that the state of Indiana imposes a lifetime ban on drug offenders receiving food stamps.

So, just what were our state legislators thinking when they drafted the law?

Maybe it was to punish drug offenders beyond their prison sentences. Maybe it was to limit food stamp programs to save money. Perhaps it was considered a way of ensuring that drug offenders have less money to spend on drugs, since they would have to spend some on food.

Whatever the reasoning, the policy is clearly flawed. Drug offenders, after they’ve done their time, should be eligible for the same sorts of public assistance as others. In fact, having access to food stamps might keep them from dealing drugs to get money to buy food.

Indiana is one of just nine states that still deny food stamps to drug offenders. One of the others, Georgia, is poised to end its ban soon. Public officials in another, Nebraska, are debating that state’s policy. That leaves only Indiana, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia with the law intact.

Indiana needs to follow the lead of the rest of the nation and quit punishing people for what they might do wrong again — in this case, use drugs.

“I get it. These people who have drug problems did a bad thing,” Nebraska state Sen. Tommy Garrett said in a recent Associated Press article. “I’m interested in reducing recidivism, and I don’t think it’s warranted to deprive them of benefits that other convicted felons get.”

Life is hard enough for an ex-con (keep in mind that they’ve already paid their debt to society) just trying to find work, a place to live, transportation, health care and other necessities, without having to go hungry.

It’s time to abolish this “what-the-heck-were-they-thinking” law.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association.