Thursday, November 29, 2007

SSDP Gets The Message Out On Capitol Hill

On November 1, 2007, SSDP hosted a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill to illustrate the destruction wrought on thousands of college students who have had their financial aid revoked for minor drug convictions. Good students are being forced to quit school or pay hopelessly high tuition. Unfortunately, some of them surely fall back into drug use, forever losing the chance that they had to get a degree and build a better life.

SSDP's Government Relations Director Tom Angell moderated the event, where six excellent speakers made a compelling case that the Aid Elimination Penalty must be revoked --- and you can watch every moment of the briefing, thanks to Youtube.

"We have a choice," said Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), "you can reduce crime or you can play politics." The Congressman spoke first, arguing that the Aid Elimination Penalty defies logic. "It's counterproductive, because those who are involved in drugs - the last thing you want to do is kick them out of school and give them a lot of free time with nothing to do"

Nicole Byrd, spokesperson for the American Association of University Professors, made a fact-filled argument that focused on the naked irrationality of the Aid Elimination Penalty. "Those with degrees not only add more to the public coffers, but they cost much less, with a fraction of the crime seen in the lesser educated population and a third of the claims for public assistance."

Marisa Garcia said, "I am one of the lucky ones - I didn't have to drop out of school." For simply being caught with a pipe, Marisa and her family had to absorb thousands of dollars in extra expenses as her aid was revoked. How anyone can think this law is fair is beyond this blogger.

Kandice Hawes also had her aid revoked. "At the time that i was affected, I was a responsible, full time, hardworking student," she said. Nevertheless, a single possession ticket was all it took to send her scrambling to find a new source of aid - a search that ended with the Perry Fund.

Representing "The Association of Addiction Professionals," Cynthia Moreno Tuohy offered a clinical view of drug use and shared the story of how she overcame restrictions that are similar to the Aid Elimination Penalty. According to Cynthia, policy makers are not thinking about drug use holistically. "We know that addiction abuse is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease and we know that its a medical disease. And yet, ... this law does not treat this as a medical disease"

"We find that its very classist, and quite frankly, its a very racist policy," said Hilary Shelton, the Washington Bureau Director for the NAACP. He shed light on how the Aid Elimination Penalty's effects are mostly targeted towards poor Americans.

Finally, there was a short Q&A at the end of the event. Watch Hilary and Tom field questions on racism and more extreme drug use.

Like all great fights, there have been setbacks in the decade-long battle to end the injustice of the Aid Elimination Penalty. Nevertheless, those who care about fair and sensible drug policy should take heart: as is apparent in these videos, the facts are on our side, and the facts will win in the end.

1 comment:

D said...

It's sad that they punish students with drug offenses by kicking them out of school. Instead of just expelling them, they should go through the effort to help them and give them therapy so that they don't continue to become a degenerate to society. The solution is in the therapy, not turning a blind eye.

I've really been looking closer at addiction these days, especially after watching the show on A&E called Intervention. They really show how addiction affects the psyche and the mindset of an individual, as well as how it affects the family. You should check it out: http://www.aetv.com/intervention. The new series premiere is on December 3rd at 9pm, for those of you that want to get a fresh start.

The problem is helping these people identify that they have a problem, and then understand how to get them to fix the problem. We're not going to fix any addiction problem by ignoring it and pretending it doesn't exist. By throwing students out to the streets, we further perpetuate the reason that they have drug problems, forcing them deeper into their addiction issues. I am working to support this because I think that we need to help people with addiction instead of pretend that it doesn't exist.