12-13-2019  1:36 pm   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Louisiana State University President Heading to Oregon Job

F. King Alexander will succeed Ed Ray, who is retiring from the position at Oregon State University at the end of June after 17 years as president. Ray will continue in a teaching role at the university

PHOTOS: Black Santa Visits Northwest African American Museum

The Skanner's Seattle photographer Susan Fried was on hand to snap some photos

English Language Learners' Success Translates Into a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Teacher Julie Rowell

Oregon educator boosts student achievement and future prospects at Gresham High School

Portland Resident Hoping to Donate Kidney to Black Recipient

Fewer Black patients receive live kidney donations

NEWS BRIEFS

Friends of the Children Chapter Coming to Tacoma, Executive Director Announced

Organization empowers youth facing the greatest obstacles through the long-term support of professional mentors ...

Oregon Humane Society Celebrates the Adoption of the 11,000th Pet of 2019

Max, a two-year-old Labrador/Weimaraner mix, is going to a new home with the Dunlap family of Damascus ...

EPA Approves Funding for Oregon and Washington to Improve Drinking Water, Wastewater Infrastructure

States estimate $190 million for wastewater, $35 million for drinking water projects in Oregon, and $120 million for...

Conservation Breakthrough for Endangered Butterfly

The Oregon Zoo's breeding success provides new hope in an effort to save Oregon silverspots ...

Meet 80 Local Authors at OHS 52nd Holiday Cheer Book Sale and Signing

This free Oregon Historical Society event will be held this Sunday, December 8 from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. ...

Louisiana State University president heading to Oregon job

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana State University is looking for a new system chief, after President F. King Alexander was appointed Friday to lead Oregon State University.Oregon State's Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to hire Alexander in a special meeting, confirming that Alexander...

As California thins forests to limit fire risk, some resist

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS, Calif. (AP) — Buzzing chainsaws are interrupted by the frequent crash of breaking branches as crews fell towering trees and clear tangled brush in the densely forested Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco. Their goal: To protect communities such as Redwood...

New Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz predicts success

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Eli Drinkwitz was saying all the right things after being introduced as the new football coach at Missouri, laying out his vision for the once-proud program with unwavering confidence and bold proclamations.Then the former Appalachian State coach made a minor...

LSU's Burrow, Auburn's Brown named AP SEC players of year

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is a unanimous selection as the offensive player of the year on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference football team.The top-ranked Tigers also have the SEC’s coach of the year in Ed Orgeron and the newcomer of the year in freshman cornerback Derek...

OPINION

Will You Answer the Call for Moral Revival?

In embracing and expanding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Barber and Theoharis have asked Presidential candidates to consider a debate that focuses exclusively on poverty ...

What I’m Thankful For This Season

Ray Curry gives thanks for a human right that shaped our country throughout the 20th century and that made Thanksgiving possible for so many Americans who, like him, didn’t get here by way of the Mayflower ...

Congressional Black Caucus Members Visit U.S.-Mexico Border: “Mistreatment of Black Immigrants is Another ‘Stain on America’”

Members said they witnessed first-hand the deplorable treatment and plight of Black immigrants ...

Portland, I'm Ready

Last month I had the privilege to stand with hundreds of supporters and announce my intention to run for re-election ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Donor pulls jumi.5M grant to UNC-Chapel Hill over 'Silent Sam'

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A New York-based not-for-profit foundation has withdrawn a jumi.5 million grant intended for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in light of a financial deal between leaders of the university system and a Confederate group to preserve a controversial...

Belgian carnival removed from UNESCO list over racism row

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A famous Belgian carnival was removed from the U.N.'s cultural heritage list on Friday following complaints that its most recent edition contained blatant displays of anti-Semitism.The Aalst carnival was taken off UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list during a...

Anti-Semitism order raises tough issue of defining prejudice

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump’s order to expand the scope of potential anti-Semitism complaints on college campuses is raising the stakes of an already tense battle over how to define discrimination against Jews.The executive order Trump signed on Wednesday tells the...

ENTERTAINMENT

Greta Gerwig on making 'Little Women' 'at the speed of life'

NEW YORK (AP) — The first movie Greta Gerwig saw in a theater was “Muppets Take Manhattan.” When it was over, her parents momentarily couldn’t find her. She had run to the front of the theater to put her hands on the screen.“I thought I could get into it,”...

'Lemonade' by Beyoncé is named the AP's album of the decade

NEW YORK (AP) — The top 15 albums of the decade by Associated Press Music Editor Mesfin Fekadu:1. Beyoncé, “Lemonade”: At the beginning of this decade, Beyoncé was already the greatest singer of her generation. She won a record six Grammys in a single night, had women...

'Mad Men' actress Christina Hendricks files for divorce

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks filed for divorce Friday from her husband of 10 years, actor Geoffrey Arend. Hendricks filed the marriage dissolution documents in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. The 44-year-old Hendricks...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Blue-collar character actor Danny Aiello has died at age 86

NEW YORK (AP) — Danny Aiello, the blue-collar character actor whose long career playing tough guys included...

‘Rise of Skywalker’ is almost here, but a dark side looms

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Disney bought Lucasfilm for more than billion in 2012, there were lofty...

In surprise decision, US approves muscular dystrophy drug

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health regulators approved a second drug for a debilitating form of muscular...

Ex-PM elected Algeria's new president, to protesters' dismay

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria newly-elected president Abdelmadjid Tebboune vowed after his victory was...

El Salvador court gives hefty sentences in mass gang trial

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A court in El Salvador has sentenced 373 convicted members of the...

Battle ahead: Scotland party leader vows independence push

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has won the majority he needs to push through Brexit, but he...

McMenamins
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."

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