Alcee Hastings Wants Inmates to Get Their Federal Benefits Before Their Trials

This week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., brought back a proposal to “prohibit the federal government from stripping pre-trial individuals in county jails of their Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and SSI benefits, before an inmate has been convicted of a crime.”

Hastings showcased his “Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act” on Monday. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is cosponsoring the proposal.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution’s 8th Amendment requires government entities to provide medical care to all inmates. With current law allowing the federal government to cut off important safety net resources, local governments are burdened with the expense of providing health care to thousands of men, women, and juveniles currently awaiting trial, while also trying to manage widespread budget deficits and cuts to essential services,” Hastings said about his bill.

“We must remember that although these inmates are incarcerated, some for over a year, they are innocent until proven guilty and the termination of their benefits could very well undermine this cardinal presumption. Moreover, the denial of benefits disproportionately affects low-income and minority populations, as they are oftentimes unable to post bond, which would enable them to continue receiving benefits,” Hastings added.

“There is no question that the denial of access to fundamental programs and the erosion of the presumption of innocence are an affront to our sense of justice and our stated commitment to the rule of law,” Hastings insisted.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees. So far, there is no counterpart in the Senate.

 

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