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Data Processing Work Gives Inmates Access to Info

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By Kamika Dunlap on April 08, 2010 1:50 PM

Despite the warnings, many states continue to train prisoners to do data processing work, at times giving them access to Social Security numbers and other personal information.

The data processing work prisoners perform  federal, state and local governments may reduce recidivism and cut costs for cash-strapped states, but it also raises issues about the access prisoners have to citizens' personal information, USA Today reports.

As a result, the Social Security Administration has propose legislation urging Congress to pass a law that would make bar states from giving prisoners data processing work with personal identifying information.

Typically, states can end the practice or pass laws faster than federal lawmakers can deal with the problem.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is sponsor of a bill that would prohibit prisoners from handling Social Security data.

According to a recent federal audit, several states including Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia train prisoners for data processing work.

Some of these jobs access personal information while processing employee wage statements, student transcripts, tax files, and health care and labor claims forms.

In Kansas, an inmate was caught trying to steal names, birthdates and Social Security number while enrolled in a data entry training program, the audit found.

This has led Kansas correction officials to form a committee study the prison data entry programs more closely as they try to phase them out next year.

In 2005, California passed a law that forbids such programs there.

Currently, Social Security Administration officials are also considering directly appealing to states that allow the practice to ask them to stop.

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