Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New York City Criminalizes Food Stamp Recipients By Requiring Fingerprints

When we think of fingerprinting, the first thing that often comes to fruition is its use in criminal investigations and its strong association with one being considered a criminal. It is so powerful a tool in tracking alleged suspects of criminal activity that last spring, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began the roll-out of a nationwide biometric identification system for suspects, inclusive of a new fingerprinting database for law enforcement.

However, now it seems that fingerprinting is being used for less than criminal activity. In New York City, the Bloomberg Administration has implemented a program that will require applicants for food stamps to be electronically fingerprinted. This requirement makes the city one of only two jurisdictions in the country that require applicants to be fingerprinted along with Arizona. Approximately 1.8 million people receive food stamps in New York City.

California used to have this requirement, but just this month, Gov. Jerry Brown acted to eliminate the requirement that food stamp recipients in California be fingerprinted. Brown signed a bill that ended the Statewide Finger Imaging System for the 3.8 million Californians participating in the federally funded Cal Fresh program, starting Jan. 1 – a program that is designed to increase participation in programs to feed the poorest residents.

Politicians, in particular suggest that fingerprinting is an effective way to reduce and prevent fraud. However there has yet to be any evidence that such is the case with respect to efficacy and utility. Not to mention that economist have pointed out that the process cost an estimated $187,364 a year to implement for the already cash-strapped city and state.

Research from the Urban Institute, as cited by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, estimates that around 30,000 people are deterred from getting food stamps because of the fingerprinting requirement.

Use of fingerprinting in the current economy in which a majority of African Americans are disproportionately impacted, will only serves to criminalize being poor.In addition, there are no guarantees that this information will not end up in the data bases of law enforcement agencies bring to the fore a forth and fourteenth amendment concerns. Last, it adds more to the already existing stigma around applying for federal aid by treating poor and minority individuals like criminals for trying to access a legal program.

The question is why it does in New York City when it is not required anywhere else in the state of New York?

1 comment:

msladydeborah said...

Is this an attempt to catch criminals that have not been detected? I don't get the connection otherwise.

In my profession, it is required to be fingerprinted to detect those in our ranks who have criminal records. I have gone through the process and it was a major headtrip for me because all I could think about was the fact that I could be traced from that point on by the government on all it's many levels.

But this is bullshyt!