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The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Outrage: Prison inmates collect unemployment benefits

jailSeriously now! Even the most entitlement-happy liberal has to find this story problematic. According to the website Philly.com, nearly 1,200 of the inmates imprisoned in the City of Brotherly Love have been collecting unemployment compensation while sitting in their cells.

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.

The “cash for cons” program has cost federal taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. And it’s not unique to the Keystone State. A recent audit in South Carolina found that inmates there were also receiving unemployment benefits. Ditto for Arizona, which doled out $1.1 million to 475 felons last year.

The article notes that Pennsylvania is in the process of terminating the travesty thanks to efforts on the part of the state’s governor, Tom Corbett, but that comes as cold comfort in light of the estimated $27.7 million the state has been spending annually on unemployment.

The answer to the question of how this was permitted to happen depends on who you ask. Philadelphia Prison System information officer Shawn Dawes is quoted as saying that “it just wasn’t on anybody’s radar.” The same is true for the question of how long the practice has gone on.

The fact that payments have been made through direct deposit seems also to have been a factor. Since inmate mail is opened and screened, checks to the prison would likely have raised an eyebrow or two.

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Howard Portnoy has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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