$24 Million in Welfare Benefits Paid to 20,000 New Jersey Prisoners

Friday, May 31, 2013

New Jersey’s state government has done a poor job of distributing government assistance to the wrong people—namely prisoners.


Individuals sent to prison are not eligible for unemployment, welfare and other benefits, under state rules. And yet, nearly $24 million was given to these very same people, due to “a lack of adequate internal controls,” Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer said in a new report.


Over a 22-month period, inmates received $10.6 million in unemployment checks, $4.2 million in food stamp benefits, and $1.2 million in temporary cash benefits. In addition, more than $7 million in Medicaid payments were sent to managed care organizations, pharmacies, or hospitals and clinics on behalf of prisoners. Criminals convicted of robbery, kidnapping and official misconduct were paid $354,000 in pension checks.


A total of 20,000 prisoners were the recipients of these benefits.


“Suffice it to say that when thousands of inmates are collecting unemployment checks from behind bars, there is a serious gap in program oversight,” Boxer told The New York Times.


One case involved a man who was jailed for illegal possession of firearms and, three months afterward, began receiving unemployment checks. In another case, a former state employee who had been imprisoned for sexually assaulting a minor was paid more than $37,000 in pension benefits. Nearly $40,000 in jobless pay went to a drug offender.


Thirteen state employees used sick leave to continue receiving their salaries while they sat in prison.


The news was not welcome by Governor Chris Christie, who may seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.


His office refused to comment on the story, instead referring the media to the state Department of Labor. There an official tried to spin things by pointing out the study began six months before Christie took office.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

New Jersey Sent Welfare Checks to Prisoners (by Kate Zernike, New York Times)

New Jersey Inmates Collected Millions in Government Benefits, Report Says (Associated Press)

Pennsylvania Halts Unemployment Checks to Prisoners (after 16 Years) (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

IRS Paid Out $112 Million in Fraudulent Tax Refunds to…Prisoners (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)       


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