12-03-2022  3:07 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

NORTHWEST NEWS

Tough Oregon Gun Law Faces Legal Challenge, Could Be Delayed

Midterm voters narrowly passed one of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, but the new permit-to-purchase mandate and ban on high-capacity magazines faces a lawsuit that could put it on ice just days before it's set to take effect.

Portland Approves $27M for New Homeless Camps

Public opposition to the measure and the money that will fund it has been heated, with critics saying it will criminalize homelessness and fail to address its root causes.

Portland Settles Lawsuit Over Police Use of Tear Gas

The lawsuit was originally filed by Don't Shoot Portland in June 2020. “Our freedom of expression is the foundation of how we make social change possible,” Teressa Raiford said in a news release. “Black Lives Still Matter.”

Oregon Lawmakers Lift Security Measure Imposed on Senator

Since July 2019, Sen. Brian Boquist had been required to give 12 hours notice before coming to the Oregon State Capitol, to give the state police time to bolster their security and to ensure the safety of people in the Capitol.

NEWS BRIEFS

PBS Genealogy Show Seeks Viewers’ Brick Walls

The popular PBS show “Finding Your Roots” is putting out a nationwide casting call for a non-celebrity to be featured on season...

The James Museum Opens Black Pioneers: Legacy In The American West

This first-of-its-kind-exhibition explores Black history in the West with a timeline of pictorial quilts. ...

Use of Deadly Force Investigation Involving Clackamas County Sheriff and Oregon State Police Concludes

The grand jury’s role was solely to determine whether the involved officers’ conduct warranted criminal charges; questions...

Scientists call for action to help sunflower sea stars

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Scientists along the West Coast are calling for action to help sunflower sea stars, among the largest sea stars in the world, recover from catastrophic population declines. Experts say a sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013 has decimated about...

To address wealth gap, Wash. to consider K ‘baby bonds’

SEATTLE (AP) — Jennifer Bereskin dropped out of high school when she was 17. Her family was homeless, and she needed to get a job to buy food and afford bus fare. Couch surfing with friends in Everett, Lynnwood and Seattle, her dreams of college were put aside. “I was merely...

Missouri holds off Arkansas 29-27 to reach bowl eligibility

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri and Arkansas will be headed to similar bowl games after the Tigers held off the Razorbacks 29-27 on Saturday night, leaving each of the bitter border rivals 6-6 on the season. Only one walked out of Faurot Field with victory cigars. Brady...

Rivalry week should bring SEC bowl forecast into clear focus

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — It’s rivalry week for most of the Southeastern Conference. The Egg Bowl. The Iron Bowl. The Palmetto Bowl. The Sunshine Showdown. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The Battle Line Rivalry. It’s a chance for everyone to either avoid or add to the powerhouse...

OPINION

‘I Unreservedly Apologize’

The Oregonian commissioned a study of its history of racism, and published the report on Oct. 24, 2022. The Skanner is pleased to republish the apology written by the editor, Therese Bottomly. We hope other institutions will follow this example of looking...

City Officials Should Take Listening Lessons

Sisters of the Road share personal reflections of their staff after a town hall meeting at which people with lived experience of homelessness spoke ...

When Student Loan Repayments Resume, Will Problems Return Too?

HBCU borrowers question little loan forgiveness, delays to financial security ...

Tell the Supreme Court: We Still Need Affirmative Action

Opponents of affirmative action have been trying to destroy it for years. And now it looks like they just might get their chance. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Antisemitic celebrities stoke fears of normalizing hate

A surge of anti-Jewish vitriol, spread by a world-famous rapper, an NBA star and other prominent people, is stoking fears that public figures are normalizing hate and ramping up the risk of violence in a country already experiencing a sharp increase in antisemitism. Leaders of the...

Both sides see high stakes in gay rights Supreme Court case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being warned about the potentially dire consequences of a case next week involving a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for same-sex couples. Rule for the designer and the justices will expose not only same-sex...

GOP's Duarte takes California Central Valley US House seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year. With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just...

ENTERTAINMENT

Prince William, like his father, prioritizes the environment

BOSTON (AP) — Prince William capped a three-day visit to Boston by meeting with President Joe Biden to share his vision for safeguarding the environment before attending a gala event Friday evening where he sounded an optimistic tone about solving the world’s environmental problems through...

LGBTQ chorus in Colorado Springs unifies community with song

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Below the vaulted dome and dark wood beams of a church in Colorado Springs, a gay men's choir rehearsed for a concert that's taken on new meaning after an LGBTQ night club became the site of a shooting that killed five and wounded 17. “There is no...

Britney Spears' massive pop songs to land on Broadway, again

NEW YORK (AP) — A stage musical about woke princesses that uses hit songs by Britney Spears will land on Broadway this summer. "Once Upon a One More Time," featuring Spears' tunes, including “Oops!… I Did It Again,” “Lucky,” “Stronger” and “Toxic,” will start...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Polynesian pride: Three-day canoe voyage in mid-Pacific

RAPA NUI, Chile (AP) — The causes are worthy, the course is daunting – almost 500 kilometers (about 300 miles)...

Defeated election conspiracists seek to lead Michigan GOP

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republicans who lost their races for Michigan's top three statewide offices after...

Messi scores again, Argentina into World Cup quarterfinals

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Lionel Messi was pushed into the middle of a joyous post-match huddle as Argentina’s...

AP PHOTOS: Residents face new reality in retaken Kherson

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — When Ukraine wrested back Kherson from Russian occupiers nearly a month ago, it was a...

Russia rejects -a-barrel cap on its oil, warns of cutoffs

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian authorities rejected a price cap on the country's oil set by Ukraine’s Western...

Thousands protest in South Korea in support of truckers

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators representing organized labor marched in South Korea’s...

Marjorie Valbrun Special to the NNPA from America

Washington — When the landmark welfare reform law was enacted in 1996, the political rallying cry was "ending welfare as we know it."   Today, a move is underway to rescind some of the law's punitive measures, such as provisions that permit states to deny welfare benefits and food stamps to people convicted of felony drug crimes.

These provisions were intended to prevent selling or trading food stamps for drugs, but widespread budget deficits and steep recidivism rates are prompting state governments that enforce the benefit bans to rethink the policy amid high unemployment and escalating prison costs.  New Jersey and South Dakota are the latest states to reverse course and allow drug felons to receive public assistance.

Advocates for former felons are seizing the moment to make the case that the restrictions are counterproductive in tough economic times, and they are urging state and congressional lawmakers to remove the benefits ban.  Convicted felons have difficulty getting jobs even in good economic times, and public assistance and food stamps are critical income supports during the transition from prison, the advocates say.

"When individuals with drug convictions are denied food stamps and cash benefits, establishing economic stability upon reentry becomes more difficult, and it becomes more likely that they may return to criminal activity and drug use instead of maintaining sobriety and obtaining gainful employment," says Elizabeth Farid, deputy director of the Legal Action Center's National H.I.R.E. Network.

The network seeks to increase job opportunities for those with criminal records, advocating for ending public policies and employment practices that further penalize felons who have served their time.

Opponents of the restrictions say the ban has disproportionately affected women and people of color, who are more likely than Whites to be charged and convicted for drug crimes.

Many states have opted out of the law banning drug felons from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the food stamp program is now called, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the welfare program.  Other states have modified the bans and made them less punitive.  Because the federal government fully funds food stamps, allowing felons to receive them does not burden state budgets.

Ten states still have the food stamp ban.  Lawmakers in three of them—West Virginia, Missouri, and Delaware—have proposed legislation that would remove the ban.  Eleven states maintain the TANF ban.

In Georgia, where the 67 percent recidivism rate is one of the highest in the country and where more than 50,000 people are in its state prison facilities, lawmakers have maintained the ban.

Democratic State Sen. Emanuel Jones, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, introduced a bill during the last session that proposed restoring eligibility for food stamp and welfare benefits for drug felons who had served their time.  "It didn't get any traction at all," he says, adding that he plans to introduce a measure this year proposing restoration just of food stamp benefits. Regarding its prospects, however, Jones says, "I think the chances are very slim." "We lock up a lot of people here, and we apparently want to keep them there," he says, referring to the high recidivism rate.

Henrie Treadwell, director of Community Voices and Men's Health Initiative at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, is optimistic that the benefits will eventually be restored for former felons. Her program works to improve access to health care and other services for those transitioning from prison.

"I serve on the Georgia Board of Corrections, and everything that I see and hear says we are moving in that direction," says Treadwell, who is also a research professor at Morehouse's Department of Community Health & Preventive Medicine.  "Our new governor has made reduction of recidivism one of his priorities.  Now, the question becomes how far we will go."

On the national front, proponents of sentencing reforms are actively lobbying Congress to repeal the bans.  Two pieces of legislation to do that have been introduced in Congress but have not moved.  Rep. Barbara Lee ( D-CA) introduced H.R. 329, which has eight co-sponsors and would repeal the food stamp ban, and Rep. André Carson (D-IN) introduced H.R. 3053, which would repeal the TANF ban and has 19 co-sponsors.

"What we see all too often are restrictions that fail to promote public safety, that frequently run counter to integrating formerly incarcerated people into the community and that are based on political posturing rather than behaviorally based analysis," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, told a House Judiciary subcommittee last June.

He also noted that the ban does not apply to people convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape or child abuse.

"This ban disproportionately affects women and children, by far the overwhelming proportion of recipients of such benefits," Mauer said at the hearing.  "The impact of the ban means that a woman returning home from prison who may gain temporary employment but is then laid off during a recession is left with no safety net.  And further, children are essentially punished for the acts of their parents."

Although children of felons remain eligible to receive public assistance, restrictions for felons mean that benefits decline for an entire household.

"It's unrealistic to think that the restriction will only reduce the quality of life of the parent while maintaining the rest of the family's overall level of comfort," Farid says.

Celia Cole, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Texas, has been working on this issue since 1999.  During that time, six bills proposing that food stamp benefits be provided to ex-felons were introduced and died in the state legislature.

With state reintegration programs for former inmates being cut for budgetary reasons, Cole said she hopes that budget-conscious lawmakers will give new legislation a better reception.

"Our position has always been that food assistance is critical to successful re-integration into society," she says.  "We see being able to feed themselves as way to being able to rebuild their lives."

But Texas lawmakers, and those in other politically conservative states that support the restrictions, tend to take a dim view of entitlement programs and an even dimmer view of criminals.

"We're a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap state, so there's limited support for food stamps to begin with," Cole says.  "There's also this knee-jerk reaction to people with felony drug convictions.  Lawmakers don't want to appear soft on crime."

Outraged lawmakers originally pushed for the lifetime ban because some food stamp recipients, though not the majority, traded stamps for drugs or sold them to obtain money for drugs.  But, food stamp benefits are now distributed electronically and accessed with a debit card that makes selling or trading benefits more difficult.

Unlike old food stamp coupon books, the electronic cards can be traced, leading to substantially less fraud and abuse nationally.  In 2008, for example, Texas reported no instances of food stamp fraud, Cole says.

"Who are we to say, 'You made a mistake.  You paid your debt to society.  We're letting you re-enter society, but you can't eat'?" she adds.  "It doesn't make sense."

Photo Gallery

Photos and slide shows of local events