It’s a statistic I have used before: We have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s imprisoned.
We apparently are willing to pay the price to make sure that they go back to prison. The cost is already staggering. California has been ordered to cut the overpopulation of its prisons to ONLY 135% of capacity. Other states are not far behind. Although figures vary from state to state, the minimum figure for incarcerating a person for one year that I have found is $25,000, and this is under conditions that Human Rights Watch have found to be inhumane.
Now let’s examine why the government apparently wants to have the people who have committed crimes return to prison.
It is generally accepted that re-integration into the community is necessary to minimize general recidivism. If a person has food, shelter and a support system, they are far more likely to re-integrate successfully and far less likely to commit other crimes. Do we want less crime? Of course we do! Then why do we treat former felons in such a way as to assure that the maximum number of them turn to crime in order to survive?
In the 2007 ban on drug felons receiving food stamps, the states were allowed to opt out of the ban. Some did, some did not. So what were the results of this?
The results were as one might expect. In those states where the food stamp ban was instituted, general recidivism increased. That’s right, because they could not get food stamps, drug felons resorted to illegal methods to get food. In states where the food stamp ban was not instituted, general recidivism of drug felons decreased.
Now we are discussing doing the same thing again, but this time with a more dangerous set of criminals. We are discussing doing this without allowing the states to opt out of the ban. Do we really want to see an increase in murder, rape, illegal drug use, robbery and child molestation? Do we want to see the members of the families of these former felons suffer?
I don’t think it’s a good use of our tax dollars to discourage re-integration of former offenders by removing food stamps for those who need them, not when the likely consequences are so devastating. This ban increases crime, which may affect any of us. We may then look at increased court costs. And we will certainly still be feeding the recidivist, but at a much higher cost in prison.
Is this a wise ban? No.
Write to your congressional delegation. Let them know that they are being “penny wise and pound foolish.” In other words, let them know you don’t want more crime at the cost of a few dollars in food stamps.
To contact your Senator, go to http://www.senate.gov and to contact your Representative go to http://www.house.gov . Thank you for those who take a few minutes to contact their congressional delegation. Please feel free to share this blog.