by Crystal Phelps

Felons should receive the same right to government assistance as others. Welfare reform legislation was put into effect in 1996, to prove the politicians in Washington were tough on crime. However, this took away any right for a felon to receive assistance from the government. Once a person is released from prison they are expected to transition back into society, but most jobs will not hire them based on their background. These people may not have any family or friends to come back to and get help from. If they are not given the help they need to be a respected member of the community they are left with no other choice but to resort back to the lifestyle they know. Felons are not given a fair chance to change their life because they are constantly judged and reminded of the mistake they previously made. This is the reason that the return rate to prison is 85%.

The 1996 ban can be lifted by states, but only nine states have done so.  Another 11 states simply refused to lift the ban, while 30 states lifted with specific conditions.  In those 30 states, the result was an altered ban under which drug convicts could receive government assistance only if they submitted to drug testing and counseling, and remained out of trouble for some duration of time. If drug convicts are to be held to these stipulations, why isn’t everyone?

Others who receive assistance are not obligated to find a job, be enrolled in school, or be drug tested. The fact that these people have not been caught does not mean they do not live the same lifestyle as those who have been convicted. Everyone should be held to the same rules and guidelines when it comes to government assistance. Everyone in need of assistance should be treated as equal. Convicted felons need more assistance than anyone due to discrimination and judgment alone. Too many people who have no criminal background sit around and have multiple kids, doing nothing productive with their lives and living for free. Convicts who do attempt to turn their lives around cannot receive anything; this leads them to return to a life of crime, giving people the false idea that they never tried to change.

If the community would open its eyes, citizens would realize that our taxes are being used to support people who have no intention of supporting themselves. Instead they quickly turn their noses up to those previously convicted, as if they do not deserve the same chance as anyone else. Rules should be the same all around for anyone who receives assistance.

Felons deserve the same respect and support as anyone else as they transition their lives and become respectable members of the community. Government assistance should be available to those who truly need it and not to those who want it because they are lazy.