Globe Newspaper Group » Alameda County, Featured, Local News, Politics » U.S. Supreme Court Orders Release of 46,000 Inmates, Emphasizing the Need for Swanson’s Nutritional Assistance for Families Act
U.S. Supreme Court Orders Release of 46,000 Inmates, Emphasizing the Need for Swanson’s Nutritional Assistance for Families Act
(Sacramento, CA) –The Nutritional Assistance for Families Act, which provides critical food services to individuals released from prison for certain non-violent felonies, passed the Assembly this week and now moves to the Senate. The bill is significant in light of yesterday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the California Department of Corrections to release 46,000 prisoners within the next two years.
“Nearly 46,000 prisoners will soon be released into our communities,” explained author Assemblymember Sandré R. Swanson (D-Alameda), Chair of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. “Whether you are happy with this or not, the fact is that the state is about to absorb a huge population of ex-felons and we must be realistic about how to support them and their families as they attempt to transition back into society. If a person’s most critical needs are not met when they re-enter society after serving time in prison, they won’t have the tools necessary for a successful and safe return. Without basic support, such as food, many of them will return to criminal activity and drug use instead of gainful employment and sobriety.”
“I understand being hard on crime. I stand behind stricter penalties and fines for criminals. However, once a person has successfully served his sentence, he should have tools available to successfully reintegrate.”
“The recidivism rate in California is at a shocking 70 percent – the highest in the nation. Californians want to see their hard-earned tax dollars support education and job creation, not to house a prisoner at a cost of $50,000 each year. If the Legislature is genuinely interested in stemming the spiraling prison population, it must address the basic needs of prisoners upon re-entry,” said Assemblymember Swanson.
AB 828 will allow individuals previously convicted of certain non-violent, drug-related offenses to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Existing federal law permanently bars certain former offenders from receiving these benefits, but allows states to opt out of the ban through legislative action. Fourteen states have eliminated the ban entirely, and twenty-one states have modified the ban.
“California’s restrictive policies are inhibiting its access to federal monies. AB 828 will tap into these federal funds, which will ultimately support agriculture, increase sales tax revenue, reduce the state’s recidivism rate, and provide fundamental services to families at a time of dire need. Economists estimate that for every dollar of SNAP funds spent, the local economy receives $1.75 in return. During these times of unprecedented program cuts and joblessness, we cannot leave federal dollars on the table that would ultimately help stimulate our economy and increase public safety by helping communities safely absorb the 46,000 prisoners who may end up living as our neighbors.”
Two versions of the bill successfully reached Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk in past years, only to be vetoed. Swanson is hopeful that Governor Jerry Brown will see the value of this bill as a fundamental component of our state’s successful re-entry strategy.