Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baer: State loses millions to inmate unemployment

Philadelphia prison inmates collected unemployment benefits while sitting in their cells, writes John Baer of the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Recently I wrote that the law in Pennsylvania provides that a jail or prison inmate may not collect unemployment benefits. But until recently the state had no sure way to stop payments from getting to inmates in county prisons, costing millions in fraudulent payments every year, as reported by the PA Independent.

According to Baer, 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.

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.

Baer wrote, the Philly amount ($7 million) is based on statewide averages, according to the Labor and Industry manager of unemployment-compensation research, Kirk Basehore. The number of Philly inmates who collected (1,162) came from a pilot review done last May by the Corbett administration.

Those caught collecting represent 13 percent of Philly's 9,000 prisoners. If 13 percent of the 34,500 county prisoners statewide collected, the total take would be $27.7 million.

That's per year - for who knows how long.

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