Can my criminal history limit my ability to get public benefits?

It depends. With some benefits programs, there are no rules or requirements related to criminal histories, so you can and should apply to these programs. You can even apply for certain benefits while you are still in prison or jail. But with other benefits programs, there are rules that may disqualify you based on your criminal history. Some programs may limit or deny your access to benefits if you have a certain kind of criminal conviction (a criminal offense you were found guilty of); a parole/probation violation; certain kinds of unpaid fines, fees or debts; or an outstanding warrant. Different programs will have different rules and requirements about these issues. Some programs also impose different restrictions based on what your conviction or violation was, how long ago it was, and how many other convictions or violations you have had.