Salaam Bhatti


The United States is currently engaged in a battle against poverty. There are many heads to this Hydra, but one of the most significant is the felony drug ban. The felony drug ban prohibits individuals convicted of felony drug offenses from receiving Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. This means that, at a time when a former inmate is most vulnerable – when they struggle to find work and support themselves post-release - the government turns a blind eye to that individual’s need, often forcing a former inmate to recidivate and do anything they can to keep food on the table. As a result of this reality, over forty states have taken steps to modify or fully repeal one or both of the bans, but there are still many individuals who have been convicted of drug felonies who struggle to get back on their feet and would benefit from such public benefits. While Virginia has partially repealed the felony drug ban on SNAP, it continues to implement the full felony drug ban for TANF. It is critical that Virginia take action and fully repeal the felony drug bans for both SNAP and TANF in order to provide for the safety and future of both the Commonwealth and all its citizens.