Wednesday, March 13, 1996

CORRECTIONS CUTS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COSTS

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has experienced a significant reduction in paid workers' compensation medical and Industrial Disability Leave (IDL) costs over the last three fiscal years.

"Our department appears to have the lowest paid workers' compensation costs as a percentage of payroll of any major law enforcement or 24-hour care department in the state system," said CDC Director James H. Gomez.

According to the preliminary data from the Department of Personnel Administration, Corrections has shown a significant reduction in annual paid IDL and workers' compensation medical costs over the last several fiscal years. During the same time, the department's payroll increased by nearly 31%.

Annual paid IDL costs have decreased over $2 million since fiscal year 1992-93, to just over $10.5 million in fiscal year 1994-95. IDL is the benefit paid to state employees during any temporary disability lasting up to two years from the date of injury.

Paid workers' compensation medical costs in fiscal year 1994-95 were just under $23.5 million, down over $1.5 million from fiscal year 1992-93 levels. CDC's paid workers' compensation costs as a percentage of payroll in fiscal year 1994-95 decreased to 3.8%, down from 5% in fiscal year 1992-93.

CDC has reduced its workers' compensation costs largely as a result of an aggressive claims management program initiated in 1991. At that time, the department established full-time Return to Work Coordinator positions at each institution to manage claims on site, working directly with disabled employees. The new people also have developed monitoring techniques to better manage older cases and bring them to closure sooner through a fast-track settlement process.

This approach was especially successful at the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad. Over the last three fiscal years, the prison's annual paid costs dropped nearly $2 million and its annual IDL costs were cut nearly in half.

"Because of our efforts, employees are returning to work sooner, claims are being settled faster, and the hardship suffered by injured employees is minimized," said Gomez.

"This is a 'win-win' situation for both staff and management. We are able to take care of the needs of staff and reduce costs at the same time," said Gomez.

"Our success has been a team effort," Gomez contined. "We couldn't have done it without the dedicated efforts of the prison Return To Work Coordinators, by management's ongoing commitment to reduce costs, and by the active involvement of the State Compensation Insurance Fund."

CORRECTIONS BREAKS INCOME TAX FRAUD RING

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) today announced it has broken a large inmate conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

"I want to give credit to our professional staff who uncovered this criminal activity last November, and worked diligently and professionally to identify those responsible," said CDC Director James H. Gomez. "We are working actively with federal investigators to have the inmates and their crime partners outside the prison charged and prosecuted."

Twenty five (25) inmates at the California Men's Colony (CMC) at San Luis Obispo have been identified as suspects. Six are charged with organizing the conspiracy to defraud the government. Nineteen (19) are being charged with filing one or more fraudulent Federal Income Tax returns.

Inmates filed phony income tax returns and with help from friends and relatives outside of the prison cashed refund checks and divided the money. A total of 48 fraudulent tax returns claiming $122,000 in refunds has been traced to the inmates by the IRS. About $44,000 is believed to have been paid by IRS.

The conspiracy was uncovered in November by CMC prison investigators. To avoid jeopardizing a joint investigation with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Unit, no action was taken against inmate suspects until this week. This week 25 inmate suspects were rounded up at the prison and confined to cells away from the rest of the prison population.

Tuesday, March 5, 1996

CORRECTIONS CALLS ON SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION TO STOP PAYMENTS TO PRISON INMATES

California Department of Corrections (CDC) Director James Gomez today called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to focus on ending improper benefit payments to California prison inmates like serial killer William Bonin who received SSA benefits right up until he was executed February 23.

Bonin's social security number was provided to SSA in 1982, shortly after he arrived on death row, and again in August, 1990 when the social security number of every CDC inmate was provided to SSA. Criminal records show Bonin has used only one social security number.

"I am appalled to learn that despite all of our efforts, this serial killer was getting money from Social Security during the 14 years he was on death row," said CDC Director James Gomez. "The Social Security Administration should have stopped Bonin's checks long ago."

Social Security administrators in San Francisco indicate the benefit checks were deposited in a southern California bank in an account Bonin shared with a person SSA refused to identify.

"I sincerely hope that the federal government intends to prosecute whoever was helping a man who killed 14 children cash these checks. We will continue to provide full support to SSA so it can stop benefits to prison inmates," said Gomez.

Social Security administrators yesterday asked for an updated list of condemned inmates in California and their social security numbers. CDC immediately provided SSA with that list.

Since 1981, CDC has been providing the SSA the names and social security numbers of California prison inmates. A part of the agreement permits Social Security to share the information with the Veteran's Administration (VA) to prevent inmates from getting veteran's benefits illegally.

"We are doing everything possible to stop inmates from getting illegal payments from Social Security and the VA," said CDC Director James Gomez. "Besides providing Social Security with information, staff are instructed to intercept all government checks being mailed to inmates to determine if they are entitled to the money."

Each quarter, social security numbers of new inmates in the system are provided to Social Security's headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1990, the California Department of Corrections provided a computer tape containing the social security numbers of the more than 83,000 inmates then in state prison.