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Jenni Muns

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

House Legislation enables Prisoners to Promptly Regain Access to Critical Benefits Upon Release

June 25, 2015 | Justice | Comments
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Congressman Andre Carson (D-IL) this week reintroduced the Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 2806), a bill that would quickly restore Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Medicaid benefits to eligible prisoners after they are released from incarceration. The National Council supports this legislation, which Rep. Carson has introduced multiple times over previous sessions of Congress but has not yet been enacted into law.

According to data from 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. Inmates lose access to their benefits after 12 consecutive months of incarceration. On average, it takes 93 days to reinstate those benefits upon their release from incarceration.

Without prompt access to Federal disability and Medicaid benefits after being released, inmates with psychiatric conditions often become trapped in multiple cycles of arrest, release, poverty, deterioration of health, 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. The bill currently has 20 cosponsors.