PolitiFact: Mostly true claims on sanctions, prisoners and employees


PolitiFact last week looked at three claims by three politicians that were all at least mostly true, on sanctions on North Korea, the cost of housing prisoners, and the number of employees misclassified as contractors. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

“United Nations Resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea. Over one billion dollars in cost to N.K.”

— Donald Trump on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 in a tweet

We found Trump was largely right about the resolution’s provisions, but experts cautioned that the true financial impact of the sanctions depend on future enforcement by member nations.

Our ruling

Overall, the sanctions could represent about $1 billion in costs to North Korea — but experts say that greatly depends on other nations’ full enforcement of the sanctions.

Trump’s statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

“It costs us about $33,000 a year (on average nationally) to lock somebody up. In California it costs about $75,000 a year.”

— Sen. Kamala Harris on Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 in a speech

A spokesperson for Harris provided us with data on the cost of federal incarceration, from the independent Vera Institute of Justice, as well as numbers for California, based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The study’s findings support Harris’ claim on the average cost of housing inmates nationally. A spokeswoman for the state’s corrections department told us California paid about $73,000 per inmate last fiscal year, also very close to Harris’ number.

Our ruling

A recent study that examined costs in 45 states plus data from California’s departments of corrections and finance support the senator’s statement. Digging deeper, we found reducing inmates in California’s prisons, which Harris supports, may actually increase the per capita costs she highlights. That will be especially true if salary and pension costs continue to increase as inmate numbers drop.

Harris’ statement centers on the costs alone to house inmates nationally and in California. The evidence supports the figures she cited.

We rate Harris’ claim True.

There are “thousands of Georgia workers that are misclassified as independent contractors,” who lose benefits, including health care.

— Georgia Rep. Stacey Evans on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 in a statement sent to the Atlanta Journal Constitution

We decided to check Evans’ number of misclassified workers, and found she’s on safe ground.

A 2015 Georgia Senate study for the number of misclassified workers said an accurate estimate was difficult because the state had never done a complete study, as other states have. However, the state Department of Labor reported its inspectors had found “over 4,000 misclassified employees,” across about 1,700 businesses in 2014. In 2015, it found about 1,500 misclassified workers at 1,800 firms, and in 2016, the number was about 3,000 out of 2,400 firms audited.

It’s important to note that simply being classified as an employee is no guarantee of health coverage. Companies with fewer than 51 employees face no penalty if they fail to offer insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Our ruling

State investigators had found between 1,500 and 4,000 instances in each of the past three years, or an average of 2,800 per year. The 2,800 average likely misses many instances, and it’s a relatively small number, but it’s enough to support Evans’ statement. The connection to health care is less clear, because many small employers don’t offer health insurance, nor are they required to. But Evans was careful to include health care as one of several benefits, and her claim doesn’t hinge on that element.

With that caveat, we rate this claim Mostly True.



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