02-26-2024  4:37 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Amid Fentanyl Crisis, Oregon Lawmakers Propose More Funding for Opioid Addiction Medication in Jails

Democrats are looking to counterbalance restoring criminal penalties for possession with expanding access to treatment for a potentially growing number of people in the criminal justice system. The proposal would create a million grant fund for jails looking to provide opioid addiction medication. Federal data shows only 24% of jails provide such medication to people with prior prescriptions.

KGW Apologizes After Airing Racist Image

Television station KGW says it deeply regrets inadvertently showing a racist image during a segment called “The Good Stuff,” which invited viewers to share “cheesy, silly, or memorable” photos from the past. The 1950s image showed children throwing balls towards a sign prominently displaying a racial slur. KGW apologised for “the profound hurt this image inflicted upon our viewers and staff, particularly members of our Black community.” Leaders of the Portland NAACP chapter said they were appalled

Rep. Blumenauer Talks Retirement from Congress and His Plans to Help Put Portland Back Together

U.S. Representative for Oregon has held his seat for nearly 30 years.

NEWS BRIEFS

Black Community Input Helps Fuel George Park Project

The effort is an innovative partnership between the City, Portland Parks Foundation, and The Kidz Outside ...

Renewal of School Local Option Levy Will be on May Ballot

If approved by voters, the levy renewal would maintain the current tax rate and continue to fund approximately 660 teachers and other...

Wyden, Merkley Announce $70,000 for the Oregon Food Bank

“Nothing is more important than making sure folks in need have food to eat, and the resources to thrive,” Wyden...

Historic Church in Seattle Hosts Free Black History Month Film Series for All

New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, located in Seattle’s historic Central District, will host “Freedom Fridays: A Black History...

US government may sue PacifiCorp, a Warren Buffett utility, for nearly jumiB in wildfire costs

The U.S. government is threatening to sue PacifiCorp, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, to recover nearly jumi billion in costs related to the 2020 wildfires in southern Oregon and northern California, though the company is trying to negotiate a settlement. The potential...

Man is shot and killed on a light rail train in Seattle, and suspect remains on the loose

SEATTLE (AP) — A 26-year-old man was killed in a shooting on a light rail train in Seattle and a suspect who fled the scene remains on the loose, police said Monday. Officers responded around 11:30 p.m. Sunday to a report of a man shot on the light rail train downtown, the Seattle...

Vanderbilt visits Arkansas following Battle's 42-point outing

Vanderbilt Commodores (7-20, 2-12 SEC) at Arkansas Razorbacks (14-13, 5-9 SEC) Fayetteville, Arkansas; Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST BOTTOM LINE: Arkansas hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores after Khalif Battle scored 42 points in Arkansas' 88-73 victory against the Missouri Tigers. ...

Grace Beyer sets women's NAIA career-scoring record with 32 points in season finale

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Grace Beyer set the women's NAIA career-scoring record on Saturday, rising to 3,874 points with a 32-point effort in an 80-56 victory for University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy (St. Louis) over Hannibal-LaGrange (Missouri). Needing 14 points to pass the NAIA...

OPINION

Message from Commissioner Jesse Beason: February is 'Black History and Futures Month'

I am honored to join the Office of Sustainability and to co-sponsor a proclamation to mark “Black History and Futures Month” ...

Ending Unfair Contracts Harming Minority Businesses Will Aid Gov. Kotek’s Affordable Housing Goals

Senate Bill 1575 will protect small businesses from state and local government’s unfair contract practices while also allowing the building industry to help the governor meet her affordable housing project goals. ...

February is American Heart Month

This month is a time to recognize that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, especially in the African American community ...

Thrilling History of Black Excellence in Our National Parks

In every facet of American life -from exploration; conquest; defense; economy; resistance; conservation and the pursuit of human rights – I can show you a unit of the National Park System where the event took place, where African Americans made the...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

United Daughters of the Confederacy would lose Virginia tax breaks, if Youngkin signs off

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Legislation that would end tax benefits for the United Daughters of the Confederacy — the Richmond-based women's group that helped erect many of the country's Confederate monuments — is on its way to Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who hasn't said whether he...

Attorneys argue over whether Mississippi legislative maps dilute Black voting power

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi legislators diluted the power of Black voters by drawing too few majority-Black state House and Senate districts after the most recent Census, an attorney representing the NAACP and several residents told three federal judges Monday. But during...

MILAN FASHION PHOTOS: Feben, Rave Review promote looks for women of all shapes, ages and sizes

MILAN (AP) — London-based designer Feben opened the last day of Milan Fashion Week with a refreshingly diverse runway in every way, both in size and race. “I think why you are not seeing that around is because you are not seeing a lot of Black women in creative roles,” said the...

ENTERTAINMENT

Movie Review: Buckle up for a queer road trip caper in Ethan Coen’s spry ‘Drive-Away Dolls’

“Drive-Away Dolls” is, technically speaking, made up of old parts. Its script was written two decades ago, when references to Ralph Nader and Chelsea Clinton’s security detail were current. Its homages are even more vintage, with trippy transitions harkening back to the...

A beloved fantasy franchise is revived with Netflix's live-action 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'

NEW YORK (AP) — A new entry in the “Avatar” franchise is about to soar and James Cameron has no part in it. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is a completely different fictional world from Cameron's Pandora but the two similarly named dueling sci-fi fantasy properties have kept...

A trio of warming spices makes this beefy Egyptian omelet dinner-worthy

Omelets often are served at breakfast or brunch in the U.S., but in plenty of cuisines the dinner table is fair game, too. Which also means you're not limited to American-style omelets, which can be overly cheesy, greasy and salty. We keep things lighter and more flavorful with...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Actor Gérard Depardieu faces another sexual assault complaint as #MeToo echoes through French cinema

PARIS (AP) — French actor Gérard Depardieu faces another complaint of sexual assault, this time from a movie...

Sideways moon landing cuts mission short, private US lunar lander will stop working Tuesday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private U.S. lunar lander is expected to stop working Tuesday, its mission cut...

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

WASHINGTON (AP) — An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the...

Supporters of Brazil's Bolsonaro stage huge demonstration to defend him amid investigations

SAO PAULO (AP) — Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro staged a huge rally jamming a main avenue in...

Feleti Teo is named Tuvalu's new prime minister after elections that ousted Taiwan supporter

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tuvalu’s former Attorney General Feleti Teo was named prime minister of the tiny...

Here’s what to know about Sweden’s bumpy road toward NATO membership

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden’s bid to join NATO — held up for almost two years — cleared its last hurdle when...

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."

The Skanner Foundation's 38th Annual MLK Breakfast