Drug felons will soon be eligible to receive food stamps upon their release from jail.

In the 90s, offenders with drug related charges were barred from the program for one year after their release. The bill by New Orleans Representative Helena Moreno lifts that ban.

LSU School of Public Health criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf says this takes away one of the obstacles that prevent offenders from reentering their community.

“Many of them can make it if they receive the right treatment, the right programs, and if the major obstacles are taken away,” Scharf said.

Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other place in the world. Scharf says one reason for that is because too many offenders return to prison shortly after being released. He says this bill is a step in the right direction toward addressing that problem.

“If they had received better support and the removal of obstacles that would keep them from recidivating, they might not recidivate,” Scharf said.

Scharf says this gives newly released inmates the chance to get back on their feet, which means they are less likely to return to prison. Opponents to the measure raised concerns offenders might sell their food stamps to continue their drug habit. Scharf says while that is a possibility, it’s less of a risk than the alternative.

“The other possibility is that they come out and they’re given $20 and a bus ticket. They’re almost certain to go back to jail,” Scharf said.

The measure finally passed on a 67 to 26 vote in the House.

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