**The Benevolence Farm Soap Box Series is a space for us to elevate the thorny, complicated, and frustrating barriers current and formerly incarcerated people face in North Carolina and the United States. It is our hope that elevating these topics will raise awareness and lead to systemic change.**
In 1996, the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORC). This Clinton Administration law barred those who are charged with a felony drug offense from receiving government assistance, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Individual states are allowed to modify the ban.
The state of North Carolina has made certain circumstances to permit those who have been convicted of Class H and Class I drug felony charges on or after August 23, 1996, to qualify to receive benefits only after a 6-month period, in addition to completing a substance abuse program. When a person applies for assistance in Alamance County, for example, they are referred to Alamance Academy, LLC. There is an assessment completed to “cure the felony” for SNAP purposes.
Those who have been convicted of drug felonies in Class For Class G in North Carolina, or any drug felonies out of state, on or after August 23, 1996, are banned for life.
South Carolina is the only state in the country that has permanently banned SNAP and TANF benefits for those with drug felonies. When comparing those in general society to those who are formerly incarcerated, food insecurities were worse for those who are formerly incarcerated. Those who are formerly incarcerated are already facing trouble with finding a job and now providing for their families. Those impacted by this ban will likely experience food and nutrition insecurity.
The SNAP page for the Alamance County Department of Social Services has no mention of a partial ban for those who have been convicted of a drug felony.
While many believe punishment ends with incarceration, the collateral consequences prove otherwise. In order to expand inclusive access to fresh and healthy food, it is time to lift the ban of SNAP on people of all conviction histories.
- Determinants and Consequences of Food and Nutrition Insecurity in Justice-Impacted Populations
- SNAP Restrictions that Punish People Formerly and Currently Under Correctional Supervision
- The Center for Law and Social Policy
- North Carolina Justice Center
Article by Jacquelyn Fulk, UNC MSW Intern at Benevolence Farm