clear
Friday July 20th, 2018 8:09PM

Alabama governor: Sheriffs shouldn't pocket jail food money

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has moved to end a practice that allowed some county sheriffs to pocket leftover from money jail food programs, but advocacy groups said the controversial practice won't stop unless lawmakers change state law.

Ivey directed the state comptroller on Tuesday to stop paying a food service allowance — worth about $4,000 annually per sheriff — to sheriffs' personal bank accounts. Ivey is also asking lawmakers to clarify state law so that a larger pot of money for purchasing food, which totals almost $8 million annually, cannot be kept for sheriffs' personal use, spokesman Daniel Sparkman said.

"Public funds should be used for public purposes — it's that simple," Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey's directive does not stop sheriffs from keeping excess funds, since only lawmakers can change ambiguities in state law that allowed sheriffs to pocket the extra dollars, but she urged lawmakers to address the issue.

Advocacy groups applauded Ivey for taking a "first step" but said some sheriffs will continue to pocket large sums unless lawmakers act.

"For decades some Alabama sheriffs have abused the public trust by placing personal profit over meeting the basic human needs of people in their care," said Frank Knaack, executive director of Alabama Appleseed. "We thank Governor Ivey for taking the first step to rein in this abuse and urge Alabama legislators to heed her call to end this for good."

For years, some sheriffs have made extra money — sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars — under a Depression-era funding system that critics have argued gives a profit incentive to feed inmates poorly.

A law passed in the days when chain gangs were common sends sheriffs $1.75 a day to feed each prisoner. The state also gives a food service allowance, and another state statute says sheriffs can "retain" leftover money from feeding programs.

Last fiscal year, 55 sheriffs received a combined total of $205,205.10 for the food service allowance that was paid directly to their personal accounts, Ivey's office said.

Ivey's office said they discovered that the state was paying the food service amount to sheriffs' personal accounts under a 2008 attorney general opinion. Ivey said the state should be following a 2011 attorney general's opinion that funds can only be used for "feeding prisoners."

"The law is clear, the attorney general's opinion is clear, and now I have been clear. I urge the Legislature to follow my lead and codify this policy into law during the next regular session."

The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights and the nonprofit Alabama Appleseed in January sued dozens of sheriffs, seeking public records about how much they had made off feeding programs.

Some sheriffs have made notable sums.

A federal judge in 2009 held Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett in contempt of court for failing to feed inmates properly. He had made $212,000 over three years off excess food funds. Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, who lost re-election, released tax forms showing he made a profit of $672,392 from the jail kitchen in 2015 and 2016.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said the issue has not been controversial "in the majority of the jails." In some counties, sheriffs have other revenue streams, such as money sent to feed federal prisoners, which can help create a surplus at the end of the year.

Brasfield said clarity would be welcome on what is supposed to happen to leftover money.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Alabama governor: Sheriffs shouldn't pocket jail food money
Alabama governor: Jail food funds shouldn't go into sheriffs' pockets
8:36PM ( 5 minutes ago )
California meets greenhouse gas reduction goal years early
Officials say California greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below 1990 levels, putting the state well on its way toward meeting long-term goals to fight climate change
8:24PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Supreme Court nominee dishes out mac and cheese to homeless
Pausing in his pursuit of Supreme Court robes, nominee Brett Kavanaugh donned a blue apron to help serve meals to the homeless
8:24PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Alaska plane survivor: 'For those wondering I'm alive'
A woman who survived a plane crash in Alaska says she's thankful to be alive
7:18PM ( 1 hour ago )
New San Francisco mayor vows to leave no resident behind
The first black female mayor of San Francisco has outlined an ambitious to-do list to make a city known for immense wealth but also homelessness more prosperous for all
7:07PM ( 1 hour ago )
Hawaii Supreme Court sides with lesbian couple in B&B case
A Hawaii appeals court ruling that a bed and breakfast discriminated against a couple by denying a room to two women because they're gay will stand after the state's high court declined to take up the case
6:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
California meets greenhouse gas reduction goal years early
Officials say California greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below 1990 levels, putting the state well on its way toward meeting long-term goals to fight climate change
8:24PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Supreme Court nominee dishes out mac and cheese to homeless
Pausing in his pursuit of Supreme Court robes, nominee Brett Kavanaugh donned a blue apron to help serve meals to the homeless
8:24PM ( 18 minutes ago )
The Latest: Walker offers condolences after fatal explosion
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is expressing his condolences to the family of a firefighter killed in a massive natural gas explosion
8:03PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Shannade Clermont from 'Bad Girls Club' charged in theft
A former cast member of the television reality series "Bad Girls Club" was arrested on charges alleging she stole debit card information from a man who died shortly after a date with her
8:02PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Croatia in World Cup final for 1st time, beats England 2-1
Ivan Perisic tied the score in the 68th minute, Mario Mandzukic got the go-ahead goal in the 109th and Croatia shocked England with a 2-1 victory to advance to its first World Cup final, against France on Sunday
8:01PM ( 40 minutes ago )