NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Most prisoners end up behind bars because they did something wrong, but it appears hundreds of them may have continued to collect unemployment checks while sitting in jail.
"This isn't an issue where the department has an oversight and money just went out the door," explained Turner Nashe from the Department of Labor.
A few weeks ago Nashe and the department learned inmates received over $1.3 million in unemployment checks over the last year.
"It doesn't surprise me because we run into fraud all the time," he added.
Over the last few years every county in the state has put a new computer system in place that alerts victims' and their families when a criminal is getting out of jail and it turns out that technology found people on unemployment, ineligible for checks because they were incarcerated were still getting paid by the government.
"We've got about 65,000 people a week that receive a check, none of those people are not receiving a check because the people that are incarcerated are receiving a check," Nashe explained.
Officials say 944 inmates received those unemployment checks, spread that out across $1.3 million dollars and you average about $1,300 that each inmate received for the year of 2012.
"I don't think they were trying to cheat the system they just weren't telling the system to quit sending the checks even though they were incarcerated because someone at home was getting it," said State Senator Bill Ketron about the finding.
Sen. Ketron believes inmates have probably been getting state unemployment checks for years but more than anything, he says this will prevent the problem from happening in the future.
"The most important part of the discovery of this is every week is we'll be looking at those records and we won't be issuing new checks," he added.
The Labor Department will now go after those 944 inmates to try and get the $1.3 million back and any cash that gets returned will be placed into the general trust fund.