State pulls plug on jail scam

Even while in jail, some of our creative miscreants continue to ply their trade.

Here's a head scratcher — inmates serving time in county jails across Illinois have collected over $2 million in unemployment compensation over the past year.

Since county jail inmates aren't eligible to collect unemployment compensation, it's fair to ask how this happened.

The answer is that there was a hole in the state's system to determine eligibility, and people serving time in jail took advantage.

State officials announced this week that they discovered that more than 1,100 inmates have collected unemployment. After learning about the scam, they compared lists of inmates in county jails with lists of individuals receiving unemployment.

If they find a match, no check is issued.

The Illinois Department of Employment began looking into the problem after southern Illinois state Rep. John Cavaletto, a Salem Republican, reported that he'd heard stories about the scam by inmates in his district.

Kudos for Cavaletto for taking the initiative to follow up and the same goes to the department for taking Cavaletto's report seriously.

Individuals receiving unemployment compensation are required to check in every two weeks with the state to demonstrate they are still eligible. So how did the inmates check in?

They exploited provisions allowing people to check in by phone or the Internet.

State officials say they'll try to recoup as much money as they can and that some criminal charges may be forthcoming.

But the best news is that this scam has been uncovered and addressed. One wonders, however, how long it's been going on and how state officials overlooked the potential problem in the first place.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
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