For Immediate Release
Sept. 29, 2020
Senate continues to be “smart on crime” with action to end lifetime food assistance ban for residents with certain drug convictions
Senate Bill 1006 will benefit justice-involved residents, especially people of color and individuals with disabilities
LANSING—The Michigan Senate continued its commitment to smart criminal justice reform today with the passage of Senate Bill 1006. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Jim Ananich, will permanently end Michigan’s lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance for individuals with more than one drug felony.
The Michigan League for Public Policy has been working on this issue for several years as a way to better support justice-involved individuals when they come home, and it was a key policy recommendation in the League’s May 2019 report, Thriving on the outside: How Michigan can help the formerly incarcerated become gainfully employed. In fact, full eligibility for SNAP benefits among drug offenders decreases the probability of returning to prison within one year by 13.1%.
“After years of advocacy, Michigan’s longstanding lifetime ban on food assistance for individuals with more than one drug felony is one step closer to being eliminated,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “This is a huge win that will make it easier for justice-involved individuals to access food, improving food security, racial equity and disability inclusion while reducing recidivism. We appreciate the bipartisan support for this bill and other important criminal justice reforms.”
Recent analysis from the League took a closer look at the distinct impact the SNAP drug felony ban has on Michiganders with disabilities. People with disabilities face numerous structural barriers to employment and earning capacity. As a result, workers with a disability are unemployed at nearly three times the national average and, when working, paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to workers without disabilities. At the same time, people with a disability may also face above-average healthcare costs that make it difficult to afford all of their basic needs—including food. Working-age adults with disabilities are four times more likely to experience food insecurity than those without disabilities.
“The ban unfairly extends punishment long after individuals have served their sentences,” Jacobs said. “And systemic factors in employment, healthcare, and law enforcement mean that people with disabilities, particularly people of color, are overrepresented both among the food-insecure population and in justice system involvement.”
Nationwide, people in prisons are nearly three times as likely to have a disability as the nonincarcerated population, and those in jails are more than four times as likely. Cognitive disabilities and mental health issues—disabilities that may often be “invisible” to law enforcement officers and other members of the community—are the most common disabilities among incarcerated people. Additionally, disability is more prevalent in communities of color, which have also borne the brunt of “tough on crime” policies—especially the war on drugs.
Research also shows that women make up an outsized percentage of incarcerated people with a drug offense. Parents are more likely to plead guilty to drug felonies to avoid separation from their families, and women are more likely than men to solely parent children. Nationwide, 60% of women in prisons and 80% of women in jails have dependent children.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.