Senator's new measure denies food stamps for life to certain classes of ex-convicts

Everyone should contact his or her Senators (In NH that's Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen) and ask them to vote against the Vitter amendment to the Farm Bill that denies food stamp eligibility to those convicted of certain crimes. Vitter’s amendment would prohibit convicted murderers, and people convicted of sexual offenses from receiving food stamps.  Under current law, there is a lifetime ban only for convicted drug felons, though many states have opted out of or modified that ban. Vitter’s amendment would extend the lifetime food stamp ban to dangerous sex offenders and murderers, and would not allow states to opt out or modify this ban.

The Senate voted 75-22 on Thursday (06/06/2013)  to end debate on a five-year farm bill, clearing way for passage of the legislation next week.

Tell your Senator:

This is fundamentally unfair because it further punishes individuals who have done their time and paid their debt to society.

These individuals are likely to need assistance because of their ongoing unemployability.

This will further alienate persons that we should be encouraging to become law-abiding members of society. It sends the message that they are a sub-class to which society no longer accords fundamental help.

It perversely punishes the needy families of ex-offenders by counting the offenders resources against the family's eligibility for assistance while denying the offender that assistance.

The Senate reconvenes on 6-10-2013 Monday 9AM to VOTE on the Farm Bill. (Watch HERE)
Call your Senators TODAY/NOW/ASAP at 202-224-3121 Tell them stop the Vitter Amendment!
Cloture Motion passed see VOTE. Monday is Floor/Final Vote on S-954 (See article)

In a sleepy moment on the Senate floor Wednesday, Senate Democrats accepted an amendment to the long-delayed farm bill that, if passed in its current form, would represent another step in turning previously incarcerated Americans into a permanent underclass. Certain classes of ex-convicts would be denied food stamp benefits for life, under the amendment offered by Sen. David Vitter (cannily, the crime of soliciting prostitutes is exempted from this ban). While the amendment may sound like common sense, it’s actually a harshly punitive, counterproductive policy that will only increase crime and trap people in the criminal justice system.

The amendment was clearly created as a wedge issue, a perennial Republican effort to get Democratic senators to vote for something that can get used against them later in attack ads. Tom Coburn is a master of this; during the healthcare bill he offered an amendment banning sex offenders from receiving health insurance benefits for Viagra.

Vitter presented the bill as prohibiting “convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles” from food stamp benefits. And in general those are the categories – murder, rape, aggravated sexual assault, domestic violence where sexual assault is involved, child molestation, and so on. No senator would vote to “give” violent offenders federal benefits, and in this case they didn’t have to. Rather than put the amendment up for a vote, the manager of the farm bill, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, merely accepted the amendment into the base bill. The amendment was agreed to by unanimous consent, which is to say that nobody objected to it on the floor. In reality, it’s unlikely that most senators even knew the amendment’s contents.

“Some people say these are unsavory crimes, and I agree,” said Bob Greenstein, founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one of the first to notice the amendment’s passage. “But there’s a broader principle here. Suppose you did something terrible when you were 19, and you were straight the rest of your life, you paid your debt to society, now you’re 82 and living in poverty, should you be stripped of food stamps? Is this the right thing to do?”