NJ Sent $24M in Benefits— to Prisoners

Agencies didn't check databases to see if recipients were in prison

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted May 30, 2013 11:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – New Jersey sent nearly $24 million in taxpayer money to prisoners in the form of unemployment, welfare, pension, and other benefits, reports the New York Times. An audit released yesterday uncovered 20,000 prisoners who received benefit money between July 2009 and April 2011, including tales such as one man who collected $39,000 in unemployment benefits while locked up for a drug offense—despite a state law requiring that beneficiaries be "available for work." State officials and "a lack of adequate internal controls" are to blame, according to the state comptroller's report.

"Suffice it to say that when thousands of inmates are collecting unemployment checks from behind bars, there is a serious gap in program oversight," the comptroller said, adding that some agency programs just didn't check to see if recipients were in state or county prison, while others relied on newspaper reports rather than available databases. "Recovering the money is not going to be a straightforward process," he told the Star-Ledger, "but the agencies have committed to make every effort to recover it." Chris Christie, meanwhile, is sidestepping blame, stating in a letter that the issue began before he came into office.

Almost half of payments—over $10M—were unemployment benefits sent to 7,500 prisoners over a 22 month period.
Almost half of payments—over $10M—were unemployment benefits sent to 7,500 prisoners over a 22 month period.   (Shutterstock)
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