A bill in the House would repeal Missouri’s law that denies food stamp eligibility to individuals convicted of a felony drug crime.
Missouri is one of nine states in which a felony drug conviction results in a lifetime ban from food stamp eligibility. No such ban applies to those convicted of murder, child molestation or many other felonies. Supporters of the bill say that isn’t right.
One of the people to testify for the legislation in a meeting of the House Committee on Children and Families is Johnny Waller, Junior, who served five years in Nebraska State Prison for selling drugs. He is now a member of the Kansas City Crime Commission and working on his 2nd degree at Rockhurst University. Waller last year recieved a pardon from Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.
Even so, Waller says he still can not receive food stamps. “I did a lot of bad things, and I hold myself responsible. I don’t blame society or anything like that, but one must be allowed a second chance.”
Waller says drug offenders who do want to straighten their lives out are at a disadvantage. “We’re just thrown away basically. People don’t want us to reoffend but, we’re kinda not given a choice.”
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), agrees. He says a felon who needs to eat and knows how to make money selling drugs is going to do so. “They’re going to go right back to what they were doing and then they’re going to end right back up in prison. We’re going to pay $21,000 a year to put them in a prison for doing the same thing they went to prison for before because we’re too cheap to give them food stamps for a little while when they get out of prison.”
A similar bill is being sponsored in the Senate. Last year a bill was advanced out of a House Committee but was never debated on the floor.
AUDIO: Hear Johnny Waller, Junior’s testimony. 17:20