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Highlights

Several provisions of federal law allow for or require certain federal benefits to be denied to individuals convicted of drug offenses in federal or state courts. These benefits include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, federally assisted housing, postsecondary education assistance, and some federal contracts and licenses. Given the sizable population of drug offenders in the United States, the number and the impacts of federal denial of benefit provisions may be particularly important if the operations of these provisions work at cross purposes with recent federal initiatives intended to ease prisoner reentry and foster prisoner reintegration into society. GAO analyzed (1) for selected years, the number and percentage of drug offenders that were estimated to be denied federal postsecondary education and federally assisted housing benefits and federal grants, contracts, and licenses and (2) the factors affecting whether drug offenders would have been eligible to receive TANF and food stamp benefits, but for their drug offense convictions, and for a recent year, the percentage of drug offenders released who would have been eligible to receive these benefits. Several agencies reviewed a draft of this report, and we incorporated the technical comments that some provided into the report where appropriate.

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