If you've gone to jail and your family receives food stamps, your criminal conviction doesn't automatically bar you from further food assistance. While you may not be able to receive benefits during your incarceration, at a minimum you will be able to reapply for assistance upon your release. However, receiving a conviction for certain types of crime will bar you from the food assistance program indefinitely in some states.
Food stamps are usually awarded to households and families, but that could indicate a single person. If you were the main applicant for food stamp benefits, any rules that you break could affect seconday recipients. Each state has their own provisions regarding food stamp recipients, but the majority of states discontinue food stamp benefits when recipients go to jail, even if they have children.
Food Stamp Fraud
Selling or transferring your food stamp benefits is considered food stamp fraud, which is considered a crime punishable by law. In states such as South Dakota or Florida, if you are found guilty of food stamp fraud, you could face extensive fines and jail time. In some states, such as South Dakota, individuals found guilty of intentionally violating the rules of their food stamp program will be disqualified for a specific amount of time. However, in other states, such as Florida, food stamp recipients found guilty of selling or transferring benefits in any amount will be bared from the program indefinitely.
If you received a conviction for a drug felony, you may no longer be eligible for food stamps. Twenty-four states suspend food stamps permanently for recipients convicted of drug felonies. If you live in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island or South Carolina, you may reapply for food stamp benefits after going to jail for a drug-related felony. However, you must successfully complete a drug or alcohol treatment program before reinstating your food stamp benefits.
Restart Food Stamps
You may reapply for food stamps while you are in jail to ensure benefits are available for you and your children when you are released. If you are not available for a phone interview with your local department of social services while in jail, you may authorize a family member or friend to complete the interview on your behalf. However, you must submit written authorization before the interview can take place. If your state ultimately denies your reinstatement application, consider contacting a community advocacy group or an attorney to help you appeal the decision.