75 California Organizations Ask to Lift Lifetime Ban on Access to Services

February 5, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, February 5th

Broad Coalition Calls for California Leadership to Finally Lift Discriminatory Lifetime Ban on Access to Services, Reduce Poverty and Recidivism, and Improve Economy

75 California organizations call on Governor and legislative leaders to prioritize removing the barrier for formerly incarcerated people to access vital public services in addressing prison size reduction court order.

 On Wednesday, February 5th, a broad coalition of 72 organizations representing housing, health care, faith, youth, women’s issues, criminal justice, and more delivered a letter to encourage the removal of the lifetime ban on basic needs assistance for formerly incarcerated people. The letter, delivered to Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Speaker John Perez, calls on the leadership of state of California to respond to the escalating poverty crisis and compounding prison overcrowding and recidivism crises in California by lifting the ban.

“By banning for life food, basic needs assistance, and employment retraining and support for people with prior drug felony convictions, California unnecessarily creates barriers to successful re-entry, exacerbating recidivism rates that are the second-highest in the country” said Jessica Bartholow, Legislative Advocate with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “For California’s economy, for our public safety, and for our families, it’s time for this policy to end.”

California is home to both the highest supplemental poverty rate in the country, and to a long-term  prison overcrowding crisis, fueled by staggeringly high recidivism rates. Knowing that there will be an added focus on these areas in the coming legislative session, the authors of the letter are urging that a repeal of the ban be a part of any legislative solution to the prison overcrowding crisis. Research has shown that state-sponsored support programs that address short-term economic needs, especially services related to job training, health, education, and housing, reduce the odds of recidivism by 83 percent.  In addition, by opting to ban certain Californians from receiving benefits they’d otherwise be entitled to, the state is leaving on the table millions of dollars in federal funds available for the very programs proven to reduce recidivism and poverty and improve the economy.

“Making it harder for me and my family to survive is not the way to help the economy and our community recover” said Rosie Flores from Riverside, a member of All of Us or None and California Partnership. “We need programs that help all people, not punish people for mistakes they’ve already paid for. The legislature should lead and repeal this policy immediately.”

California is in the minority of states that retains this optional ban on assistance. A bill to remove the ban authored by Senator Loni Hancock was introduced last year and was endorsed by advocates, law enforcement, county supervisors and city officials.  Authors of the letter are hopeful that a bill to repeal the ban will be introduced before the February 21st legislative deadline.

For a full list of organizations who signed on, go to this link: http://on.fb.me/1e49Xjk