Prison Secrets

California Prisons Are a major source of EDD fraud, Including the sale of identities


By Ms. Amber S. Jackson

What good would it be to have your own women's prison weekly columnist if I held back on some of the most interesting and least known elements of what goes on in this place? I've given this a lot of thought and decided to share some of what I've observed in this place. So please, just for a moment, allow me to take your mind off of COVID-19 and entertain your imagination.

We've all been aware of the EDD unemployment fraud. Millions upon millions of dollars going out to fraudulent claims of unemployment money. It even seems like fraudulent claims go through before the claims of people who really worked and need the money. It's disgusting. And if you're waiting on a claim to feed your kids or pay your rent, you know exactly what I mean. Well, there is an even deeper layer of this fraud going on.

Have you ever thought about what happens to a person's identity when they go to prison? Some are subject to identity theft. Some even sell their identities to someone outside of prison. For a fee, they give their social security number, date of birth, etc. Someone outside of prison will then use this info to commit any kind of fraud you can imagine. Now, combine that with the booming industry of unemployment fraud here in California, and you have a recipe for millions of dollars in fraudulent EDD claims.

I see and hear my peers talking about this all the time. It surprises me how easy this is. There are even a couple of cases I've heard of the unemployment department sending checks directly to the prisons! What?? Oh, yeah, this is an industry all it's own. Now, don't get me wrong. Some prisoners' identities are used without their knowledge or consent by their families or anyone who manages to get their personal information. Identity theft knows no boundaries.

It's tough, if not impossible, to prove that a prisoner sold their own identity. Additionally, when a person gets out of state prison, any fraud committed under their name can be cleared up by producing paperwork and records detailing the dates of their arrest and release. Thus most, if not all, the credit activity and fraud can be removed from their credit reports. This is a hard process for a former prisoner to go through. However, if someone sells their own identity, it's not something they seem to care about.

You see, most people that come to state prison are illiterate. Many of them are formerly homeless. Most have a serious drug addiction and few have a meaningful relationship with their families or any type of support system. I'm surrounded by many women in their 50s who were born crack babies, women who can't spell basic words or do elementary math, women who look at prison as a vacation from their life of chasing drugs, shoplifting, and sleeping on the sidewalk. Some even were prostitutes.

Now, I'm not making excuses for anyone. After all, as a lifer who watches the same women come and go repeatedly, I have no sympathy for any of this behavior. As a fellow recovering addict, I can tell you that recovery is hard work. But addiction is not a valid excuse to do whatever you want. I've learned a lot watching the mistakes of others. Prison wisdom, you could call it.

Hopefully, I've succeeded in making you think and showed you another facet of life. I plan on sharing more stories from the underbelly of life while still keeping God and hope as my motivators.

I'm Amber, your friend behind these walls.


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