Prisoner Reentry

To reduce recidivism, states scrap barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, July 27, 2017, Stateline: “To ease prison crowding and rein in corrections spending, state legislatures are trying to help ex-offenders re-enter society with the goal of ensuring they don’t return to prison. People exiting prison often struggle to find work and housing, and many legislators say the law continues to punish them as they are hit with court debt and barred from entering certain professions and, in some places, from getting public assistance…”

Ex-Offenders and Employment

Matching ex-offenders with hard-to-fill health care jobs, By Sophie Quinton, April 19, 2017, Stateline: “Collie Thomas sat in the courtyard outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital and marveled at her luck. She works as an orderly in one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. She was promoted about a year ago. She just moved into a snug new row house. ‘I stayed 10 years in prison, and I worked hard in prison for like a dollar, dollar fifty — for so little,’ said Thomas, 51, her bedazzled pink smartphone glinting in the April sunshine. ‘So when you get these kinds of jobs here, you work your best.’  With unemployment falling and workers hard to find, a growing number of health care employers are following Johns Hopkins’ lead and giving people with criminal records a second chance — hiring them mainly into entry-level jobs in food service, janitorial services and housekeeping. Studies show that employees with records stay in their jobs longer and are no more likely to commit workplace crimes than hires without them…”

Prisoner Re-entry – Colorado

Homelessness, criminal histories create barriers for those seeking to re-enter Colorado society, By Amelia Arvesen, April 15, 2017, Denver Post: “On paper, Glenn Allan Tefft was sure he qualified for an open position at a Longmont, Colorado, printing plant even with his criminal background. But his spirits were low after he believed he was judged on his appearance during what he thought was a suspiciously brief interview. ‘People won’t even look at you,’ he said a week before the opportunity arose. ‘You can tell I’m homeless.’ Almost 39, a three-time felon who’s been to jail but not prison, Tefft is struggling to defy the odds also faced by 95 percent of the prison population that the Congressional Research Service expects will reintegrate back into the greater community at some point…”

Ex-Offenders and Occupational Licenses

To help ex-offenders get jobs, some states reconsider licenses, By Sophie Quinton, March 8, 2017, Stateline: “Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft.  Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.  ‘I was a whole other person back then,’ Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Signed out of prison but not signed up for health insurance, December 5, 2016, National Public Radio: “Before he went to prison, Ernest killed his 2-year-old daughter in the grip of a psychotic delusion. When the Indiana Department of Correction released him in 2015, he was terrified something awful might happen again.  He had to see a doctor. He had only a month’s worth of pills to control his delusions and mania. He was desperate for insurance coverage.  But the state failed to enroll him in Medicaid, although under the Affordable Care Act Indiana had expanded the health insurance program to include most ex-inmates. Left to navigate an unwieldy bureaucracy on his own, he came within days of running out of the pills that ground him in reality…”

Medicaid Coverage for Ex-Inmates

Feds act to help more ex-inmates get Medicaid, By Jay Hancock, April 29, 2016, National Public Radio: “Administration officials moved Thursday to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expanding eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences.  Health coverage for ex-inmates ‘is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health,’ said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services.  Advocates praised the changes but cautioned that HHS and states are still far from ensuring that most people leaving prisons and jails are put on Medicaid and get access to treatment…”

SNAP Program – Georgia

Georgia may soon lift ban on food stamps for drug felons, By Ryan Phillips (AP), April 26, 2016, ABC News: “Georgia may soon lift a ban on food stamps for convicted drug offenders after they are released, in an effort to keep them from returning to prison. Gov. Nathan Deal plans to sign legislation Wednesday making the state opt out of a federal lifetime ban on food stamps for those convicted of a drug-related felony. While the federal program calls for stiff restrictions on felons, states are allowed to opt out of the ban. The post-release assistance is supposed help prevent recidivism. The initiative under Deal’s legislative agenda is part of a more comprehensive bill aimed at reforming the state’s criminal justice system…”

Medicaid Coverage for Former Prisoners – Ohio

State pushes Medicaid sign-ups for inmates, By Alan Johnson, July 28, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “In the old days, inmates got $75 and a one-way bus ticket when they got out of an Ohio prison. Now, they can get something more valuable — a Medicaid card. Three state agencies are aggressively pushing to get the majority of the roughly 21,000 people who are released from prison every year enrolled in Medicaid up to 90 days before they walk out the door. Services don’t begin until they are released, unless they are hospitalized. Having a Medicaid card means former prisoners immediately qualify for health care, mental-health services and prescription drugs. In the past, ex-offenders were typically released with a small supply of their medications and had to go to county agencies to apply for health-care services, a process that often took 45 days or longer.  Delays in getting medication and treatment are crucial because many people in Ohio prisons have mental-health and addiction issues…”

States and Prisoner Re-entry

States try to remove barriers for ex-offenders, By Rebecca Beitsch, June 18, 2015, Stateline: “Raymond Daughton has been out of prison for 36 days. When he got out he was homeless, had no clothes and no money. All his belongings from his old apartment have disappeared. Daughton, 31, doesn’t want to get into trouble again, so he is staying out of his old neighborhood—one of the roughest parts of Baltimore—and distancing himself from some friends.   The past month has been a struggle of moving from couch to couch, scrounging some cash for a suit and tie, and applying for as many jobs as he can. Getting a job consumes him. He doesn’t care what he does; he just wants to earn enough money to gain custody of his two boys and support them. But he’s worried no one will want to hire someone with a conviction for handgun possession who also served a previous prison sentence.  An estimated 70 million people are trying to navigate the world with a criminal record, according to the National Employment Law Project. Some states, concerned with the high costs of keeping people locked up, are reevaluating and removing some of the roadblocks that ex-offenders face when they are released. The goal: to increase the chances they’ll succeed in society and lessen the chances they’ll return to prison…”

SNAP Enrollment and Eligibility

  • Long-term poor no longer make up bulk of those collecting food stamps on Treasure Coast, By Eric Pfahler, February 18, 2012, Vero Beach Press-Journal: “Skyrocketing need has put a strain on programs designed to feed the hungry, but technology and charitable giving have prevented the state’s safety net from bursting on the Treasure Coast. As of November, a record 3 million Floridians, including more than 85,000 Treasure Coast residents, receive food stamps through the state-run, federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The numbers are about triple the number on food stamps five years ago, according to state data. About 15 percent of both Treasure Coast and Florida residents are on food stamps. The increase has forced Florida Department of Children and Families employees to handle more calls, process more paperwork ensuring eligibility and create more partnerships to make sure people are getting aid. Local food pantries, meanwhile, are working to get more food to help people when food stamps do not provide enough food…”
  • In Missouri, murderers can get food stamps, but those with drug convictions can’t, By Jason Hancock, March 1, 2012, Kansas City Star: “Get out of prison for murder, child molestation or just about any other felony in Missouri and you can still get food stamps. But if you have a felony drug conviction, forget it. You’re banned for life. To Johnny Waller, who had a drug conviction in his past, that just doesn’t seem fair. And that’s why the 34-year-old Kansas City resident traveled this week, as he has for years, to the state Capitol to speak out for legislation lifting the lifetime ban. ‘I just believe everyone should get a second chance,’ he said. Missouri is one of only nine states where a felony drug conviction means a lifetime ban from ever qualifying for food stamps. Congress allows states to opt out of the ban, which was imposed in 1996 as part of welfare reform legislation. To date, 41 states and the District of Columbia have lifted or modified the ban, including Kansas in 2006…”
  • Michigan Senate approves bill preventing lottery winners from getting public food assistance, By Dave Murray, March 1, 2012, Saginaw News: “People winning a lot of money in the lottery would be prevented from receiving public food assistance under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Thursday. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, was prompted by a Bay County man, Leroy Fick, who last year was reportedly still using food stamps about a year after collecting a $2 million prize. The lottery winner said in news reports that he was using the food stamps after state employees told him to continue using the public assistance…”

State Medicaid Programs – North Dakota, Utah, California

  • Medicaid change delayed, By Dale Wetzel (AP), September 16, 2011, Jamestown Sun: “A chronically delayed new computer software system to handle North Dakota’s Medicaid bills, which was to be finished in nine months, will not be working until mid-2013, an executive told state legislators Thursday. The project was originally scheduled to be finished two years ago. Last summer, a vice president for the software’s developer, Affiliated Computer Services Inc., promised it would be functioning by June 2012. ACS is a unit of Xerox Corp…”
  • Utah explores extending Medicaid to inmates, By Kirsten Stewart, September 15, 2011, Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah health officials are exploring expanding the state’s Medicaid program to cover inmates’ hospital stays and doctors’ office visits. Inmates have traditionally been barred from the state-federal health insurance program, which caters to the poor and disabled. Currently, the Department of Corrections contracts directly with the University of Utah’s hospital and clinics for procedures that cannot be handled at the prison infirmary, and the state picks up the tab. Moving inmates onto Medicaid would shift most of the funding burden onto the federal government, explained state Medicaid director Michael Hales on Thursday at an advisory board meeting. In the past, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been loathe to shoulder what has long been a state obligation, said Hales. But the agency has recently signaled a willingness to bend the rules…”
  • Calif. Medicaid expansion: A lifeline for ex-convicts, By Sarah Varney, September 13, 2011, National Public Radio: “California has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its Medicaid program, three years ahead of the federal expansion that the health law requires in 2014. At least half a million people are expected to gain coverage – mostly poor adults who never qualified under the old rules because they didn’t have kids at home. Among those who stand to benefit right now are ex-offenders. Inmates often leave California prisons with no consistent place to get medical care. But that’s changing…”