Tuesday, March 10, 2015
No Soup for You
Last summer, Missouri finally rolled back a draconian law that targeted the poor. In the past, people with felony drug convictions were banned for life from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. A murder conviction or child sex offense on your record, that's not disqualifying. But not a drug felony -- no soup for you. Ever, not just for one year.
The new law still has restrictions. Less than three felony drug convictions. And the recipient must stay clean. But at least the lifetime ban is gone.
That is old news, sort of, but point here (I'm getting to it) is that often there are ramifications that go far beyond prison or supervision. Sometimes it is called invisible punishment. Employment, immigration, housing, food stamps, and much more. It is a long list. These consequences weigh much more heavily on the poor.
Padilla v. Kentucky tells us that we must inform our clients about the potential collateral consequences of a plea or sentence, such as deportation. But beyond the obvious fallout, it can be hard to identify or predict the effect of a felony conviction or incarceration. For example, it would have been good to know that pleading to a gun count rather than a drug count would save your client from a lifetime ban on food stamps.
To this end, the Collateral Consequences Resource Center has a blog dedicated to "Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction and Restoration of Rights: News, Commentary, and Tools." It is an excellent resource. This week, for example, the post noted that, "In a remarkable, unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court held on March 2, 2015 that residence restrictions for sex offenders on parole were unconstitutional as applied." Great decision, but it reminds us that we need to advise our clients convicted of sex offenses about the SORNA requirements and the other restrictions, such as residence and work. Punishment often lasts far beyond the prison term, especially for the poor.