Members of Congress to Introduce Legislation on Thursday Suspending Federal Laws that Prohibit Katrina Victims with Drug Convictions from Receiving Federal Assistance

Press Release October 25, 2005
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430

What: Press conference to announce the introduction of the Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act and the release of a letter of support signed by dozens of state and national organizations.

When: Thursday, October 27, 9:30a.m.

Where: 1116 Longworth House Building (NOTE: this is a change in location and time)

Who: Congressman Bobby Scott (D-3rd/VA), ranking member of the House Crime

Subcommittee and lead sponsor of the bill

Congressman John Conyers (D-14th/MI), ranking member of the House Judiciary

Committee (invited, but not confirmed)

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18th/TX), ranking member of the House

Immigration Committee

Antoinette Samson, evacuated wife and mother of three from New Orleans

Joyce Ann Brown, president and CEO of Mothers (Fathers) for the Advancement of

Social Systems (MASS); also Chair of the Texas Justice Network

Lorenzo Ford, Case Manager, MASS

Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance

“Unless Congress takes immediate action, the war on drugs will become a war on hurricane victims,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “People who have lost everything should not be denied public assistance just because they were convicted of a drug law offense sometime in their past. The government should stop discriminating against former drug law offenders and their families.”


The “Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act” would temporarily suspend for three years federal laws that deny public assistance to Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims who have drug offenses in their past. If enacted, thousands of destitute families that would otherwise be denied food stamps, public housing and other aid due to a prior drug offense would be able to obtain benefits to assist in putting their lives back together.

Nearly three million Americans have been displaced from their homes and are seeking immediate food, medical and monetary assistance because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Federal law, however, prohibits many from obtaining welfare, food stamps, public housing and student loans for themselves and their families due to a prior drug offense. It is impossible to know for sure how many hurricane victims will be denied public assistance because of drug convictions, but it could be in the tens of thousands.

A statement that will be released at the press conference in support of the bill has been signed by more than 80 state and national drug treatment, civil rights, and public health groups, including the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American College of Mental Health Administration, Drug Policy Alliance, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), NAACP, NAADAC- The Association for Addiction Professionals, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA-US), National Black Police Association, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and the National Urban League.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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