Can you collect Social Security in prison?

Don TaylorDear Dr. Don,
My brother-in-law was convicted of a felony and will spend 19 months in a Michigan prison. Will the government withhold his Social Security income because of this? His wife needs that money. Thanks.
-- Sally Slammer

Man in jail cell holding bars © iStock

Dear Sally,
It sounds like your extended family has been traveling down a troubling road. Here's hoping that their fortunes improve in the years ahead.

I'm sorry to tell you that the outlook isn't good regarding your particular question. The brother-in-law's Social Security benefits will be suspended while he's in prison. That's required under a federal law called the "No Social Security Benefits for Prisoners Act of 2009."

The law cuts off payments for people who have been convicted and confined in a correctional facility for more than 30 consecutive days.

Help for the family

If his spouse or children qualify for Social Security benefits, however, they'll continue to receive them while he is confined -- as long as they remain eligible.

Free bird, no longer a jailbird

Once he's out, he can start receiving benefits again. He will need to contact Social Security and provide a copy of his release documents before they can reinstate benefits. The Social Security Administration's publication "What Prisoners Need to Know" can provide additional information.

Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.

Ask the adviser

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page and select one of these topics: "Financing a home," "Saving & Investing" or "Money." Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.



Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us

Learn the latest trends that will help grow your portfolio, plus tips on investing strategies. Delivered weekly.


Jennie Phipps

Planning for today’s dual retirement

Things can get complicated when both halves of the couple are considering retirement.  ... Read more

Partner Center

Connect with us