Ga. Criminal Justice Bill Allows Food Stamps For Drug Felons

Mar 15, 2016

A Georgia House committee Monday approved a bill that would implement the next steps of criminal justice reform in the state.

Gov. Nathan Deal has pushed for major changes to the state’s prison system in the last several years, focusing on getting low-level offenders out of prison. A large part of the latest proposal focuses on helping offenders successfully stay out of prison and re-enter society.

The wide-ranging bill, SB 367, includes measures to help people get driver's licenses and to expand ban-the-box initiatives for people to be able to obtain a job. It also includes proposed changes to school discipline procedures that advocates say funnel students into the juvenile justice system.

A House committee Monday approved another provision that was added in a substitute version of the bill, to allow for drug felons to apply for food stamps.

“Right now under Georgia State law, if you're convicted of some sort of drug felony, you cannot apply for food stamps, which doesn't make sense to me,” said Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil committee. “I think we're looking for avenues for individuals to become productive members of society.”

Thomas Worthy, co-chair of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, said the council has made this recommendation in past years.

“We thought that there was an injustice between the fact that some offenders could apply, but some of our lowest-risk, non-violent offenders couldn't,” Worthy said.

He said Georgia is one of six states that currently still has a lifetime ban on those with felony drug convictions.

The overall bill includes a series of recommendations made by the Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which is appointed by Governor Nathan Deal.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and now moves to the House rules committee, which would decide if the bill gets a vote in the full House.