Pubdate: Wed, 07 Aug 2002
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company
Author: Patricia E. Allard


To the Editor:

People like former Representative James A. Traficant Jr., sentenced to
eight years in prison for bribery and kickbacks (news article, July 31), can
continue to receive their Congressional pensions. But an ordinary citizen
convicted of a felony drug offense for possession of $5 worth of drugs
becomes permanently ineligible for cash assistance and food stamps
regardless of any of his or her rehabilitative efforts.

Under the 1996 welfare reform law, people convicted of a felony drug offense
are subject to a lifetime ban on receiving welfare benefits. It was also in
1996 that lawmakers rejected a proposal to end tax-subsidized Congressional
pensions for members of Congress convicted of a felony. This two-tier system
of punishment gives new meaning to our notion of injustice.

PATRICIA E. ALLARD Washington, July 31, 2002 The writer is a policy analyst
with the Sentencing Project.
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