From In These Times: http://inthesetimes.com/article/14761/welfares_war_on_drugs/
Why laws mandating drug tests for welfare recipients are doomed to fail.
BY Camille Beredjick
March 20, 2013
The Indiana Senate Health Committee last week approved a bill that would mandate drug testing for welfare recipients. Those who test positive for drugs will be required to enter a treatment program—at their own expense—in order to continue receiving benefits. The bill has already passed the House, but Republican Gov. Mike Pence has not indicated whether he’ll sign it.
Indiana is hardly the first state to tie welfare benefits to drug tests—dozens of states have passed or considered similar measures in the past several years. But if the outcomes of those policies are any indication, Indiana’s program is doomed to fail. Lawmakers who defend drug testing for welfare recipients claim that it will encourage personal responsibility, ensure that taxpayer money doesn’t fund drug use and save the state big bucks on undeserved benefits. But opponents say such laws are rooted in two fatal misconceptions: that mandatory drug testing actually saves money, and that substance abuse is rampant among low-income families who depend on public assistance.
A fiscal failure
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 directs procedures for dealing with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients’ illicit drug use and establishes the framework for state laws like the one under consideration in Indiana. The federal act provides that “states may require drug tests for welfare recipients and may penalize those who fail such tests” and implements a lifelong ban on TANF benefits for individuals convicted of a drug-related felony.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least seven states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah—have passed legislation regulating drug tests for applicants to public assistance programs such as TANF. Provisions vary from state to state; some laws require a test be given if there is reasonable suspicion that a person uses or abuses illegal drugs, while others only mandate specific screening processes. As of March, according to the NCSL, at least 28 states have proposed legislation that would require welfare recipients to take a drug test.
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