Q&A: Prisoners don't get Social Security

No Social Security for prisoners

Does Bernie Madoff qualify for a Social Security benefit, and if so, how much?

Bernie Madoff, 72, was a stockbroker and investment adviser who went to prison for various forms of fraud. He was accused of running the biggest Ponzi scheme ever, bilking investors of more than $18 billion.

In June 2009 he was sentenced to 150 years in prison, and is now at the Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium near Butner, N.C., 45 miles northwest of Raleigh.

With the money he was making, Madoff certainly would have qualified for the maximum Social Security benefit, which is $2,346 a month.

But he's not getting it. According to a Q&A on the Social Security Administration website, benefits are not given to prisoners.

The exact language from the SSA:

"We pay benefits under both the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Both of these programs prohibit payments to most prisoners. Social Security benefits are suspended if an otherwise eligible person is confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution for more than 30 continuous days due to conviction of a crime.

"We cannot pay benefits to someone who, by court order, is confined in an institution at public expense in connection with a criminal case if the court finds that the person is: guilty, but insane; not guilty of such an offense by reason of insanity or similar factors (such as a mental disease); or incompetent to stand trial for such an alleged offense.

"Also, we cannot pay benefits to someone who, immediately upon completion of a prison sentence for conviction of a criminal offense (an element of which is sexual activity), is confined by court order in an institution at public expense. The confinement must be based on a court finding that the individual is a sexually dangerous person or sexual predator (or a similar finding.) However, if a person is not confined in prison or other similar place, benefits may be paid to an eligible individual."

To read more details about Social Security rules and eligibility, visit: www.socialsecurity.gov/faqs.

Origins of 'preaching to choir'

What is the meaning of "preaching to the choir," and when/where did this phrase originate?

The phrase is believed to be a version of the phrase "preaching to the converted," which is in the 1867 works of British philosopher John Stuart Mill, according to www.phrases.org.uk.

The first reference of "preaching to the choir" was found in a story in the Lima News of Ohio in January 1973: "He said he felt like the minister who was preaching to the choir. That is, to the people who always come to church, but not the ones who need it most."

Q&A: Prisoners don't get Social Security 10/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, October 10, 2010 5:30am]

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