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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Will the State Repeal The Law Allowing Sheriffs To Take Inmate Food Funds?

Blogger Comments:  Morgan County, Alabama and counties around the state has made national news because of the abuse of inmate food funds. is this how we really want Alabama potrayed around the nation and around the world.  Something has to change that will not allow sheriffs starve and or steal inmate food funds.  Just because it is state law does not make it right.  It means the law needs to change. 

Alabama sheriffs' claim on inmate food fund gets more scrutiny

DECATUR, Ala. - Alabama sheriffs are coming under closer scrutiny for keeping part of inmate food funds by using a Depression-era law that today could give them thousands of dollars in personal income.
Mobile County Sheriff Jack Tillman resigned April 11 after pleading guilty to perjury and an ethics violation involving his dealings with excess food fund money for the Mobile County Metro Jail.
In a plea deal, Tillman gave up any claim to $350,000 in the food fund account. He agreed to pay back nearly $13,000 he withdrew from the fund and placed in a personal retirement account, which resulted in theft charges.
Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson said she believes that some officials have misinterpreted the 1930s state law. She said it's not intended for sheriffs to profit from the food fund.
But in 52 of the state's 67 counties the sheriff provides inmate meals and takes home a share of the food fund.
During a 24-month period, a state audit shows that Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett got nearly $104,000 for feeding inmates. The state pays sheriffs $1.75 a day per inmate. Feeding inmates for less than that amount means more for the sheriff.
Bartlett received the money besides his regular annual salary of $58,000. Coupled with the food money, his pay was more than $200,000 for two years, The Decatur Daily reported Sunday, citing the audit report.
He earlier told The Daily he felt money he receives from the food fund is personal and he gets an income tax form that shows income that's not a part of regular earnings.
The food fund is paid by state tax money.
Bartlett's audit, which covers May 1, 2003, to May 31, 2005, shows that he spent $163,991 for inmate food and service and he cleared $103,938 for himself.

Alabama Sheriff Charged With Raiding Jail Food Fund

Mobile County, Alabama, Sheriff Jack Tilman has been charged with theft and violation of the public officials ethical laws for allegedly taking for personal use funds allocated by the state to feed jail prisoners.

Alabama paid Tilman $1.75 per day to feed the prisoners in the Mobile Metro Jail. Tilman spent an average of $1.45 a day. He allowed the excess to accumulate. It eventually became several hundred thousand dollars Tilman then deposited some of the funds in a personal CD and a retirement account. Tilman maintains that state law authorized him to retain the excess funds. In addition to the criminal charges, the Mobile County district attorneys office filed a civil suit against Tilman seeking recovery of the surplus funds.

Meanwhile, the county has been unable to duplicate Tilmans food budget. In FY 2004, it spent an average $2.64 per day per prisoner for food. In FY 2005, it trimmed the amount to $2.27. Thus, the county has been forced to pay the difference between the amount allocated by the state and the amount actually spent--$1.1 million thus far. The county has also hired a consultant to analyze the jails food preparation and purchasing. On December 12, 2005, the county commissioners voted to solicit bids for feeding the 1,400 prisoners in the jail and associated minimum-security barracks from private jail food preparation companies. No one seems to be asking whether the $1.45-per-day food provided by Tilman was constitutionally or nutritionally adequate. Also unasked was whether Tilman skimped on the prisoners food because he intended to raid the surplus funds all along. 

SUNDAY, APRIL 30, 2006
State, Local and National newsGet rich or feed inmates?
Some sheriffs strike gold by pocketing unspent jail food money
By Sheryl Marsh 
DAILY Staff Writer

smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437
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.
The state pays sheriffs $1.75 a day per inmate. The more inmates, the fatter the sheriffs' paychecks.
Bartlett received the money in addition to his regular annual salary of $58,000. Coupled with the food money, his pay was more than $200,000 for two years, according to the audit.
He told THE DAILY months ago that he felt money he receives from the food fund is personal and he gets a 1099, a tax form that shows income that's not a part of regular earnings.
The food fund is paid by state tax money.
The sheriff could receive even more money at the new Morgan County Jail, which should open in June.
The County Commission authorized Bartlett to negotiate a contract with the federal government to house federal inmates.
The federal government pays $3 per day for each inmate compared to the state's $1.75, according to Etowah County Administrator Patrick Simms.
Feeding inmates
Etowah County Sheriff James Hayes said weeks ago that he houses an average of 350 federal inmates, and he applies the state law in feeding them.
"The state law applies any time the sheriff has the responsibility of feeding inmates," Hayes said of the federal money. "If any of the proceeds are left over, the sheriff can keep it."
Hayes received a 1099 from the Etowah County Commission that showed he received $418,000 for 2005.
The amount included money from the federal government and the city of Gadsden for inmate meals. It did not include money the state paid for feeding inmates, according to news reports.
Bartlett said he doesn't know how many federal prisoners he will try to bargain for because he first has to see how much bed space he'll have after settling into the new jail.
Federal funds
Bartlett told the Morgan commission that federal funds would help pay for the $23 million jail here.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Birmingham said no one from Morgan County has contacted him about a contract to house federal prisoners.
In Etowah County, the contract is between the County Commission and the federal government, and Simms explained that when the agreement was established the federal government pledged $8.4 million toward expanding the jail.
The county also got a bond issue for the construction project, and Simms said the federal money for inmates helps toward repayment.
Trouble
Keeping leftover funds from feeding inmates led to a Mobile County sheriff facing criminal charges and his resignation from office recently.
Former Mobile Sheriff Jack Tillman entered a plea agreement with the prosecutor for theft charges against him for food money he took, according to news reports.
Tillman agreed to pay back money he took from the food fund and placed in a personal retirement account.
He received a 90-day suspended sentence for misdemeanor perjury and ethics charges. Also, he was placed on probation for a year, reports show.
Mobile Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson said the County Commission there and Tillman had reached an agreement that the sheriff would not take the food money for his personal use, but spend it for the sheriff's office.
Patterson said the commission rescinded a resolution that authorized the commission to feed jail inmates rather than the sheriff.
She explained that Tillman reneged on the agreement and took the money for himself, and that's why she prosecuted him for theft.
Also, Patterson said, she believes that some officials have misinterpreted the old state law and it's not intended for sheriffs to prosper from the food fund.
Bartlett's audit, which covers May 1, 2003, to May 31, 2005, shows that he spent $163,991 for inmate food and service and he cleared $103,938 for himself.
Simms said higher government authorities should probe the food-money issue.
"It's something that probably needs to be addressed at the state or federal level," said Simms. "Local government hands are tied.
"From a civil liberties standpoint, because the system is allowing sheriffs to keep the money personally, it would be 

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