The correlation among food stamps, felons, drugs and HIV

In but 16 states and Washington, DC, convicted drug felons are aren't eligible for social services, like food stamps.

Consequently, according to Yale researchers, when those offenders are released from prison, they engage in high risk behaviors that facilitate greater possibilities of an HIV diagnosis.

Yale researchers published their study on the correlation in the latest issue of AIDS Education and Prevention.

The study is released at a fragile time in the nation's welfare history and the fever to tighten welfare laws. A number of states are proposing legislation to drug test welfare recipients. In Florida, applicants for food stamps and welfare services, including unemployment, are denied if they test positive for drugs. Recent studies contend the Florida law costs taxpayers more than it saves.

16 states and the District of Columbia have opted out of the federal ban to deny felons food stamps. 24 states have a modified version of the ban and 10 kept the law in place, after states were granted the option to opt out.

The United States today, more than any time in U.S. history has more students attending school who live in “food insecure” homes. A recent HBO documentary, “American Winter” reports over one million students, more than ever in history, are homeless.

As the rights of HIV citizens have more advocates today than before, proactive preventative measures and studies have become the counter conversation of its larger parent topic, AIDS discrimination.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and positions itself alongside ex offender advocacy work focused on rehabilitation after release and reducing the rate with which felons re-enter the prison system.

The study followed 110 released felons in three different states. 37 percent were homeless. The individuals represented three states, California, Texas and Connecticut, with former inmates in California and Texas the most likely to go hungry or not eat a meal in one day. More than 9 of 10 subjects studied were concerned about obtaining food for themselves and/or their families.

The New York Times posited that the ban of food stamps aid on felons is unfair. But the Yale study also examines habits of food insecure felons upon release.

The study found that 37 percent of food insecure, released felons not only went without eating for a full day, but also were “more likely to use heroin, cocaine, or alcohol before sex, and were more likely to exchange sex for money than those who had at least one meal each day.”

The Yale study also reports that of those 110 released felons, 25 percent of women living with children reported their children not eating for a day in the past month. 38 percent of women living with children did not eat for a day in the past month.
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The study’s goal is to prove that the federal ban on food stamps to drug felons is counterproductive, but the study, unfortunately comes during an era of conservative ideals that favor drug testing for food stamp recipients.