By Jeanie Donovan
About a month ago, we released a report that outlined the harmful impact of Texas’ lifetime ban on SNAP (food stamps) for ex-drug offenders. The paper also highlighted the opportunity for the Texas Legislature to opt out of the dated federal law in order to increase food security and reduce recidivism in our state. Since the release of the paper, new research has emerged from the Yale University School of Medicine that underscores the urgent need for Texas legislators to eliminate the lifetime ban on SNAP. The study was referenced in a recent editorial in the New York Times that describes the policy as destructive and counterproductive.
The pilot study, which will be published in the March-April issue of the journal AIDS Education and Prevention, establishes a link between hunger, prostitution, and exposure to HIV/AIDS. The study also found that 91 percent of the sample of recently released prisoners was food insecure and that those who were food insecure were more likely to engage in HIV-risk behaviors. Thirty percent of their sample had minor children at home.
This data supports the Legislative Budget Board’s report and recommendation to the 83rd Legislature to eliminate the SNAP drug felon disqualification. In its report, the LBB points out Texas children’s greater risk of food insecurity due to their parent’s ineligibility for SNAP. Additionally, because ex-offenders face barriers to employment, SNAP can be a critical support in ensuring that recently released drug offenders don’t turn to crime and other risky behaviors in order support themselves and their families. Last Tuesday evening HB 587 and HB 1141, both of which would eliminate the lifetime ban, were be heard by the House Human Services committee. Lots of strong testimony was delivered in support of the bills, but they have not yet been reported out of committee. We are confident that the committee members will take this first step towards Texas joining the 40 other states that have already eliminated or softened this harmful and outdated policy.