Cry Purple

One woman's journey through homelessness, crack addiction, and prison, to blindness, motherhood, and happiness

Posts Tagged ‘drug felon’

My First Trip To The State Capital And Beyond

Posted by crypurple on February 21, 2013

I will never forget the first time I went on a journey to the state capital to testify in  an attempt to  lift our State’s life time food stamp ban and TANF ban for convicted drug felons.

I had had one eye removed  and a  prosthetic already in it, but the left eye had just been taken out days before.  The skin around my eye socket was still bruised from the eye removal, and was without a  prosthetic.  So, with  just an open empty socket, I wore  dark shades to cover the ugly gaping hole in the side of my face.

They called my name to speak. I had made this journey with a  wonderful group in Kansas City that had agreed that the food stamp and TANF bans were not helpful to those that change their lives.  Every other American can get food stamps if they lose their job or become injured in a car wreck, or on the job, or any other life changing event that  lessens their economic  status.

The leader of the group that I  partner with, or shall I say they invited me to join in,  saw my past mistakes and life change as a strength,  that all offenders are not bad offenders

People do change.

And if we help to open doors to those like jobs, housing, and even food stamps (if they meet the requirements), they should be allowed this basic staple of life – food.

A criminal/offender is less apt to re-offend  if they can find work.  It is wise, in that it builds safer communities and saves taxpayer’s money, to create opportunities for those returning from the prison system to our communities, whether that be food stamps if they lose their job and their economic status changes, or just a job, or fair housing.

I remember the lady on the House Committee  interrupting.  She asked” Is this really a law in Missouri?  Can I get information on such a law?”

The current speaker  said,  “Yes, in fact a pedophile, or murderer can receive food stamps if they are in need in our State, if they meet the economic guidelines  as every other Missourian.  However,  anyone with a drug related felony only is banned for life, with no exceptions.

I spoke – I took off my glasses, and said I did not get food stamps  when I  lived in a park.  I had nowhere to store or cook food.  Now I have been clean a number of years, and am totally blind.  I was a single parent, needing the same resources other American’s  can tap into.   However, at the time of this hearing at the capital, I did not need the food stamps.  I had a salaried job in non-profit management.  I just wanted to be that visual example that life happens  beyond our control.  My blindness/eye removal was not related to my drug usage,  and I, for sure, did not ask to have to have both my eyes taken out and to live in total darkness with no chance of sight restoration. I shared that everything is not always black and white.

People change.

If  convicted felons are trying to do the right thing,  after they do their time,  and are turned down job after job after job due to their mistake,  then they are banned from something so simple as food, the State saying No, you did drugs. Never in life may you tap into  such a resource that every other  American can. Then landlords  refuse to rent to you  once you find a job, due to your criminal history,  and you are forced to live in the ‘hood, or the seedy, drug infested areas of a community where slum lords are the only ones willing to rent to you.  Time passes, and you are still doing the right things, and you have now a family.

Believe it or not,  even felons doing the right thing wants the best for their family,  like a good education for their children, a safe place to live so their children  and family are safe. And that maybe their children won’t make the same poor choices that they have made.

Our expectations of a convicted drug felon in our state is not to just give out food stamps, it is for people to meet the same requirements, as anyone   else would have to and that they have to go and complete treatment and prove they are staying clean.

But who are we  as people that totally  paint a picture that you are not worthy of Food, never in  life  will you change?

It really does save taxpayer’s money by opening doors for offenders to find jobs and housing.  If they are paying their own taxes by working, we are saving ourselves, at least in the State of Missouri, about 21,500 dollars a year that it costs to house a non violent drug  offender.

I worked in non-profit management for a number of years.  I lost my job in November when all 12 of our offices in the state closed their doors.

I have had about 45 interviews , and today my criminal history still keeps me banned for employment.

Today I am on unemployment, and do not draw disability,  and still can’t tap into food stamps.

I, just as many other offenders/ex-offenders, just want to be a tax-paying member of my community. I just want a chance to bring up my 6 year old in a safe area, and allow him to attend good schools.  Of course, I chose to find a creative way to attempt to help myself when I saw that finding a new job was  going to be a battle, even with a good solid work history,  as people just see felon and judge.

Or people see I am blind, and judge, what can a blind person  do?

I took my time in this to continue to grow by finishing my book, so I could share some of the social struggles  people such as myself face, some of society’s barriers and misunderstood perceptions of the lifestyles people have.

I will continue each  day  to pray for a job, applying  and showing up.  Someone will, I know for sure, in time, offer me another chance, My last  trip to prison was for a parole violation in 2004. I was there a short time with no new charges. I walked down my last 2 years of parole and got off all paper in 2006.  I have gotten a GED and gone to college and worked for 5 years at the same job after college.  However, the world around me sees the labels,  not the person.

Almost five years have passed since that first trip to the State’s capital.  I have seen politicians change their thoughts.  I have heard so many people say surely that is not a law here.. I am  always surprised when I  learn that (and  here we go, again)  an organization that works with felons, or a  politician is unaware of our State’s lifetime food stamp ban, only for drug felons.

This year we will not make that trip.  Although we  have not given up our efforts to  turn over this ban for our fellow humans that live in Missouri,  the private sector, the citizens and others have to continue to be educated. I believe in equality; I believe that in our constitution it says we  face our  trials, a jury of our peers, and will, one day, be able to return to our communities and have a fair chance to rebuild our lives, too.

Often I question how often and how much do we have to prove we are changed –  how many accomplishments/milestones must be made.  I finally get to the point where I  realize that until those around us are educated, and their understandings/perceptions change, until the “once bad, always bad” , or the “everyone on state assistance is just out to rob taxpayers”, or the “all  drug addicts, are bad and can never change” mentalities go away,  we, the offenders/ex- offenders will have to continue to fight that battle to find  a  fair place in our own communitys as tax-paying, law-biding, community  members.

I believe we, too, one will have protection of civil rights.

Minority equality  comes in many forms, I guess.  I, as a convicted drug offender, am still seeking that equality. To live safe, to pay taxes, and to go to work each day to support my family seems like a odd concept for some, but it is my American dream.  And, of course, our little trailer with a fenced yard, and some sweet smelling flowers.

My next post will be some newspaper stories I was featured in over the last couple of years.

Once again, thanks for reading,

If you have not yet bought my book, Cry Purple,  please consider it and read the whole story/ journey I share of my road of addiction and  beyond!

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About the book, Cry Purple:

Gritty and gripping, this is the story of the author’s journey from almost two decades of prostitution, crack addiction and prison to her present life of blindness, motherhood and happiness. Somehow, she has survived amazing brutality and discrimination with resilience and optimism. Review quotes: “Horrifying, heartbreaking, informative and inspiring. “A riveting memoir.” “An eye-opening view of life on the streets and beyond.” “A must-read filled with hope.”

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