Your Tax Money At Work – Philadelphia Prison Inmates Collect Unemployment

February 18, 2013 4:58 pmViews: 3235

Philadelphia Inmates collecting Unemployment

Well, us conservatives don't like people getting paid and collecting food stamps for not working, but this story will do you one better. How do you like the thought of prison inmates collecting unemployment? That's right, in the Philadelphia prison system there are some 1,100 inmates incarcerated for various crimes that are unbelievably, collecting unemployment. And they are collecting it at way above minimum wage rate, averaging $344 a week.

Not only are there 1,162 inmates in the Philadelphia prison system itself collecting unemployment, there are more than 25,000 prisoners through the entire Pennsylvania system collecting.

So how did this happen?

Officials are not completely sure because all inmates are supposed to have any state or federal benefits stop once they enter the prison system. Their Social Security numbers are supposed to be cross-checked with benefit databases from the Department of Labor, but apparently that did not happen so the benefits have continued for many.

But this is not only a problem in Pennsylvania, there are other states around the nation finding similar problems. South Carolina found prisoners on the unemployment rolls as well as the state of Arizona finding 475 felons that had collected over $1 million. And we are pretty sure if there were a nationwide check of unemployment rolls, state and federal officials would find a lot more scamming going on.

Pennsylvania is working on remedying the problem as they will stop benefits to some 3,000 inmates saving $18 million a year, but that still leaves more than 22,000 prisoners behind bars getting three square meals a day, a bed to sleep in, a rood over their heads and a paycheck, for committing crimes against society. This is our hard earned tax money at work, paying prisoners for being incarcerated. Now go out an work hard today, because you are supporting the prison population...twice!

I guess the next question is, are they voting?

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Did you know that Philadelphia prison inmates collected unemployment benefits while sitting in their cells?

They did: 1,162 of them got an average of $344 a week for, on average, 18 weeks. That's more than $7 million.

And many of the 25,500 inmates in other county jails in Pennsylvania did the same.

We're talking cash for cons - tens of millions of tax dollars paid by employers and employees fraudulently scammed by incarcerated crooks.

Makes you want to get up every day, go to work and pay your taxes, right?

Well, hold on. Before you pick up torches and pitchforks, you should know that the state says such payments are ending under a program put in place by the Corbett administration, and unemployment-compensation payments to 3,000 inmates have stopped, saving up to $18 million a year.

But how'd this cons' con happen?

"Not sure," says Philadelphia Prison System information officer Shawn Dawes. "It just wasn't on anybody's radar."

Philly prisons commissioner Louis Giorla issued a statement to the Daily News praising state efforts, adding: "Offenders who are already in custody and supported by public funds should not be able to collect twice."

But they did. And getting the money back, even by attaching tax returns of scammers, is difficult, officials concede.

Such abuse isn't new, or unique to Pennsylvania.

A recent audit in South Carolina showed that inmates were getting unemployment benefits. Last year, Arizona found that 475 felons collected $1.1 million.

Still, the apparent scope of the problem here, its duration and the curiously quiet way it's being dealt with raises questions for which there seem to be few answers.

For example: How'd it happen?

Well, state corrections officials, since 1997, have linked with the Department of Labor and Industry to match incoming state prisoners' Social Security numbers with unemployment-compensation records to stop any benefits.

But it was only last month that Labor and Industry issued a news release - missed by most, apparently reported only by the online news service and not available on Labor and Industry's website - announcing a "new cross-match system to identify and stop benefit payments" to county prisoners.

This raises questions:

Why didn't state officials talk with county officials 16 years ago? Why didn't Labor and Industry, already working with state prisons, also work with counties?

Answers I got from Labor and Industry and the Department of Corrections were the same: "Don't know."

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