Friday, February 22, 2013

Story conflates jails, prisons to misrepresent scope of unemployment 'fraud'

A TV news report out of Houston blares with the headline, "Prisoners collecting millions in unemployment while behind bars," but that claim obscures more truth than it illuminates. The story opened:
Unemployment benefits are supposed to be life lines to out-of-work Texans.

But the KHOU 11 News I-Team uncovered millions of dollars in unemployment payments are flowing into jails and prisons across Texas.

All of it comes as the Texas Workforce Commission insists that fighting fraud is one of the agency’s top priorities.

But after we found more than 1,700 cases of inmates collecting unemployment, some want to know if anyone is really watching the system?
Grits replied in the comments, though, that, "If someone is convicted and sent to prison, they shouldn't receive benefits. But most people in jail have been convicted of nothing yet and still enjoy the presumption of innocence. Their benefits should not be terminated. This article lumps those categories together in a way that's fundamentally misleading and borders on demagoguery. Please give the break out for how many of those 1,700 were in jail vs. prison." I'm betting that, if we ever see that data, most of the 1,700 people mentioned were in fact eligible and did not  engage in "fraud" at all.


Anonymous said...

In order to even apply for unemployment benefits by telephone, a TDCJ inmate wouldn't be able to get through due to the prison phone system. Not to mention that they must register for an account with TWC, etc etc etc. This news story is obviously simple naivety bait - not to mention that the Chronicle is preying upon emotional sensationalism. Even if benefits were somehow continued after an inmate went to TDCJ, they would quickly be terminated unless someone ELSE was filing the required bi-weekly reports for them online. Which would then be the burden of the non-incarcerated individual and not the one in prison. This story is insulting at best.

Gadfly said...

Hell, let the Chron do a story about slave labor in private prisons, if it wants to talk about prisons and employment.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It was KHOU, fwiw, not the Chron.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification GFB. Oops.

sunray's wench said...

But Scott, don't people who claim unemployment benefit have to be available to take up work if it is offered to them? They do here, and if you are in jail then you can't just walk out if someone offers you a job.

I totally accept the point made about the majority of these claimants not being in prison, but I wonder if they are breaking the rules for claiming the benefit in some other way?

Anonymous said...

It's not fraud if they're in jail for a weekend or a few days on traffic warrants or child support or what have you. They can still claim minus the days that they weren't available to work. The article doesn't outline TWC unemployment compensation policies vs. whether or not those receiving benefits had been in jail long enough to have their benefits revoked per the TWC policy that states that they're still eligible if they were sick, out of town or otherwise out of pocket for a few days - they just don't get paid for those DAYS. If nothing else, it's sloppy journalism - at BEST. And if they're in school full time? TWC will exempt them from their work search and allow them to continue to receive benefits with prior approval. If those people are in jail and on a spring/christmas/whatever break or hiatus and haven't been convicted of anything? They're still eligible for their benefits.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should do a story on the human rights abuses on the Crain Unit. The lies and cover up of violating the human rights of these women. Investigate the officers who COERCE and threaten the inmates with major case write-ups that will prevent them from making parole, if they do not have sex with them. The cover-up and lies by the people running this unit to hide this crime of forcible rape. Investigate why these women end up in solitary confinement unable to contact anyone to help them while the officers continue to roam the prison look for their next victims. Investigate how officers can file false statements against inmates and lock them away in solitary confinement as retaliation against them for trying to file Offender Protection Investigations or Officer Complaints. Investigate officers who threaten to physically injury inmates with force and then lock them up in solitary confinement so they cannot contact anyone for help. Go to visitation if you do not believe and watch the officers treat the inmates inhumanly not only in front of their visitors but watch how disrespectful they will threat you just for visiting someone on this unit. I guess this can be expected from people who trap and kill feral cats at this prison. What is confusing is how polite society protests the rights of these cats but will stand by while officers threaten, coerce, and file write-ups that stops these women from making parole, in exchange for sex and just stand by and not demand an outside investigation of this concentration camp. Go to visitation and watch some pint size dictator want to be treating the inmates and their visitors like sub-humans. They seemed to forget the visitors tax dollars pay their salaries and think the visitors are scum. I got to witness several officers down there this weekend that would have fit in quite well with the SS Waffen running the concentration camps for the Nazis. You would have thought the person in charge down there this weekend was a Gestapo officer left over from World War two. Investigate as to why they hire officers that have these character defects, who commit domestic violence crimes at home, who get caught with child pornography, arrested for sexual assaults against children, and then try to turn around and cover up human rights violations they commit against the woman inmates. What were they thinking or expecting when they hired people like this. I am smart enough to believe if an officer will physical beat their family members at home, then they will certainly believe no one will do anything if they physically and emotionally abuse an inmate in the job. Maybe someone in the media should investigate this because it is evident that the elected officials of this state and the people in charge of TDCJ in Austin do not have the stomach for it. A story of people in prison stealing unemployment benefits is what our polite society would rather hear about than some poor inmate being forced to have sex with prison employees which is defined as raped by federal and state laws. I guess that makes a much better story. One day the truth will come out about this god awful prison and when it does everyone with knowledge about these crimes should all be prosecuted to the fullest of the law. I wonder if the current group of officers guilty of this will be charged this time with felony crimes and placed on sex registry’s for the rest of their lives or will they be allowed to simple resign and receive probation like the last group was allowed to do back in 2009. The slave labor issue on this unit is another whole story. Even Russia pays the women inmates that are forced to work in a prison garment factory. In Gatesville they are forced to do it for free. Even Russia has a more human form of slavery, well you cannot call what they do in Russia slavery because the inmates are paid, I, believe $32 dollars a month. We can sleep well knowing that only in Texas do will still have forms of slavery, overseers, and masters all employed by TDCJ and approved by the elected officials.