County Inmates Receiving Inappropriate Benefits While Incarcerated (2013MS-1)

Issued Date
October 04, 2013

[read complete report - pdf]

We also released 5 letter reports to the following counties: Chemung [pdf], Onondaga [pdf], Orange [pdf], Schenectady [pdf] and Warren [pdf].

Purpose of Audit

The purpose of our audit was to determine if counties have ensured that inmates do not receive inappropriate social welfare and other government-funded benefit payments for the period January 1, 2011, to March 1, 2013.


An individual’s eligibility for social welfare benefits may change for many reasons, including incarceration. Several programs have laws that restrict program eligibility for inmates. Unemployment Insurance (UI) provides temporary income to eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. To be eligible for UI benefits an individual must be ready, willing, and able to work and have earned sufficient wages in covered employment. Individuals who are incarcerated are not ready, willing, and able to work and, therefore, are not eligible for UI benefits.

Key Findings

  • While each county had some controls to monitor the continuing eligibility of county Jail inmates, these procedures were not always effective or timely in identifying and discontinuing inappropriate payments. During our scope period, we found that four out of the five counties audited made inappropriate social welfare payments totaling more than $236,000 to county Jail inmates. Specifically, 313 inmates received inappropriate SNA benefits, 123 inmates received inappropriate SNAP benefits, and 75 inmates received inappropriate Medicaid benefits. Positively, Warren County did not have any inappropriate social welfare benefit payments.
  • 351 inmates in these five counties received almost $325,000 in inappropriate unemployment insurance (UI) benefit payments while incarcerated in Jails.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that County jails provide appropriate DSS officials with timely daily inmate admission reports and daily inmate master reports. Ensure that DSS officials retain and use the county Jail inmate reports to monitor county inmate eligibility. Investigate the appropriateness of the social welfare benefits provided to County inmates in a timely manner.
  • Review the information sharing between the County Jails, New York State Sheriffs’ Association, and State agencies to provide NYS Department of Labor (DOL) with more frequent and up-to-date information on County inmate admissions. Limit an inmate’s ability to potentially recertify for UI benefits while incarcerated by limiting the ability to contact NYS Department of Labor via telephone.