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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Recidivism Reduction Act Aims to Speed Reinstatement of Medicaid/SSI upon Release from Incarceration

September 29, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Rep. Andre Carson (D-IL), author of the Recidivism Reduction Act

The Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 3123), introduced by Rep. Andre Carson (D-IL) with 8 cosponsors, would quickly restore federal disability and health benefits to eligible individuals after they are released from incarceration. The National Council supports this legislation.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are an estimated 350,000 mentally ill individuals in State and Federal prisons. On average, inmates with mental illnesses serve about 103 months in state prison until their release, compared to 88 months for other inmates. Yet, their SSI benefits terminate after 12 consecutive months of incarceration. SSI beneficiaries who lose benefits because of incarceration may also lose Medicaid coverage. On average, it takes 93 days to reinstate those benefits.

Access to Federal disability and health care benefits is a critical component of successful re-entry for individuals with disabilities who are released from jail, prison, juvenile detention, or other correctional facilities. Discharge-planning practices vary considerably from place to place; however, inmates are often released with merely a 2-week supply of medications and with little to no primary care follow-up. Without prompt access to federal benefits on their release, individuals with psychiatric disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system often become trapped in many cycles of arrest, release, deterioration, and re-arrest.

The Recidivism Reduction Act aims to break this cycle by allowing eligible individuals to reenter the community with necessary income support and health coverage.