Alabama Voters Say At Least One Sheriff Won't Be Enriching Himself With Federal Inmate Food Funds
from the fixing-the-law-one-county-at-a-time dept
Things will get a little less crooked in part of Alabama in the near future. Sheriffs will no longer be able be able to personally benefit from federal funds meant to feed the state’s prisoners.
More than one sheriff in the state had been caught starving prisoners while picking up nice things for themselves with the leftover money. Weirdly, this is all legal under state law, which allows personal use of unused food funds by sheriffs running the state’s jails.
Three consecutive sheriffs in Morgan County found themselves in legal trouble for taking advantage of state law. One was hit with a consent decree forbidding county sheriffs from taking home food funds. The next two sheriffs decided to ignore this legal agreement, with one of them earning the nickname “Sheriff Corndog” from his underfed prisoners. The third in line — continuing a 16-year tradition of ignoring the 2001 consent decree — raised the bar on county sheriff legal troubles by giving $160,000 in federal food funds to a corrupt car dealership run by a former felon.
A sheriff in Etowah County also brought down the heat on himself by taking home $250,000 a year in federal food funds that were supposed to be used to feed inmates. The $750,000 that managed to be accounted for is likely only a small part of the sheriff’s total take. According to public records, Sheriff Todd Entrekin managed to acquire $1.7 million in property while officially taking home a $93,000 salary.
In Cullman County, this loopholicious law has been closed. As Zuri Davis of Reason reports, voters have decided one local sheriff won’t be making himself richer at the expense of the inmates he oversees. Strangely enough, this amendment — which passed with 88% of the vote — had the support of the local sheriff.
Sheriff Matt Gentry decried the practice as ruining the reputation of Alabama sheriffs. He instead touted support for the Sheriff’s Food Bill, or Local Amendment 1. The amendment sought to add a constitutional protection to make the use of the funds more transparent. Under the amendment, the money would be placed in a public account and all excess funds would go toward law enforcement operations like deputy equipment. The account would also be subject to an audit by the state every two years.
It’s good to see someone recognize a problem and do something to fix it, rather than view the problem as an opportunity to be taken advantage of. This doesn’t change anything anywhere else in the state. Certainly the Alabama legislature is aware of the negative press but it still seems reluctant to amend the law that allows local law enforcement officials to behave in a manner befitting crooked cops. Until it does, sheriffs will continue to make themselves look bad and legislators look complicit.