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Arizona collects on improper payments to prisoners

Arizona is trying to get its money back after improperly paying more than $1.1 million in unemployment benefits to prisoners.

So far, it has recouped about $55,000.

The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/Mnk6yI ) that 475 inmates were issued payments from January 2010 to January 2012. The state Department of Economic Security discovered the problem in February after cross-checking its unemployment-benefit rolls with a list of state prisoners.

State law says those who get benefits must be "able and available to work," making prisoners unqualified.

A deputy assistant with the department says one prisoner collected about $10,000 over 46 weeks, though the average overpayment was around $2,900. Mark Darmer says the state has recovered money from 67 people so far.

Darmer says the department would set up repayment plans for others, and seek to intercept state or federal tax refunds to pay off the balances.

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