JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi will soon allow drug felons to apply for federal food assistance. New Way Mississippi is a transitional program. Brian Houser is one of several men going through the program that encountered this harsh reality after being released from serving time for a felony drug conviction.
“DHS come by and had a meeting with all of us," explained Brian Houser. "And a lot of folks here can get SNAP. But the ones of us like me that has a drug charge like me they told us that we couldn’t apply for it because we’re not going to be able to get it.”
Ronald Griffin was also in that meeting and was caught off guard by the policy.
“I had some little issues like that," noted Ronald Griffin. "It looked like to me like you could go out and do this but if you do this...oh no, we ain’t going to give you. It should be equal.”
Mississippi was one of only three states that had not opted out of the federal ban. The decision to opt out was made by the legislature as they examined criminal justice reform this year. New Way’s president and CEO says the change will help as they encourage the ex-offenders in their next steps.
“Sometimes we put laws in place that really affect them and doesn’t do a lot to help reduce the crime or even more does not help reduce the recidivism," said New Way Mississippi President and CEO Larry Perry. "Because you’re actually giving them one more stumbling block that they have to overcome.”
The drug felons will still need to meet the other requirements of getting a job, entering a workforce training program or being in school to be eligible for food assistance come July.
“That little subsidy will help us in not turning back to our old ways because if you want to eat, you’ll do whatever it takes,” said Griffin.
“I didn’t have that opportunity but yet now and I do," added Houser. "And I’m thankful for that.”
The ban currently applies to both Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The policy change will be effective July 1.
West Virginia and South Carolina are still operating under the full ban.