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ERIC Number: EJ957801
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 50
ISSN: ISSN-0090-4392
Empowerment and Public Policy: An Exploration of the Implications of Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act
Kubiak, Sheryl Pimlott; Siefert, Kristine; Boyd, Carol J.
Journal of Community Psychology, v32 n2 p127-143 Mar 2004
The ability of individuals to gain mastery over their environment is considered empowerment. However, empowerment often is assessed without attention to the historical, social, or political context the individual is embedded within. This context often is contingent upon social policies that enhance or limit the choices an individual has to behave in ways constructed as efficacious. One example of such a policy is Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which mandated a lifetime ban on welfare benefits to individuals convicted of a drug-related felony. This study examines the policy's implications from the perspective of empowerment. Specifically, we explore the characteristics of those targeted by the policy and what the denial of welfare benefits is likely to mean for this group. Using the sequential application of case study and survey methods, we first reviewed 250 court files of female drug offenders in one midwestern county, finding that most who were convicted of a drug felony received sentences of community probation, predominantly for use and possession. Second, we conducted face-to-face interviews with a subsample of 52 drug-convicted women who otherwise were eligible for welfare benefits and compared them with the general welfare-to-work population. The women in our sample had more severe barriers to self-sufficiency, including less education, higher rates of domestic violence, higher likelihood of recent major depression, and substantially higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Our findings suggest that the current national policy of denying welfare benefits based on a felony conviction status is unlikely to deter drug use or promote self-efficacy unless accompanied by effective mental-health services, help with employment, and supports to ensure a safe living environment. (Contains 3 tables and 1 footnote.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act