US Marijuana Party

Monday, May 01, 2006

Get rich or feed inmates?

Some sheriffs strike gold by pocketing unspent jail food money

Sheryl Marsh
The Decatur Daily, Alabama

Place a heaping $267,927 in a pot designated to feed inmates.

Add a dash of old state law and you have a dish with enough leftovers for sheriffs to rake into their pockets, taking them to another pay level.

The size of the dish varies among sheriffs in Alabama. Sometimes they make a profit and other times they take a loss.

If sheriffs house federal inmates, the extra money piles up — almost a half million dollars in the case of one North Alabama sheriff last year.

A law that the Legislature passed in the 1930s created a fee system to pay public officeholders. After salaries were established for officials, the portion of the law that allows sheriffs to keep the unspent jail food money remained, and it is still effective today.

Sheriffs pocketing food money has become an issue recently with a Mobile County sheriff facing criminal charges and resigning from office.

Morgan is one of 52 counties among 67 in the state where the sheriff provides inmate meals and takes home the "green grub."

During a 24-month period, a state audit shows that Sheriff Greg Bartlett got nearly $104,000 for feeding inmates.


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