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Friday, March 10, 2017

Decatur Daily Editoral - See Blogger Comments on Our Take of The Inmate Food Funds in Blue

We apologize up front for the length of the blog.  Decatur Daily did an excellent job with their editorial.  As always, we are long winded and would like to get our own input out there.


Decatur Daily Editorial 


Jail food law needs repeal

The Issue
The decades-old law that allows county sheriffs to pocket leftover inmate food money for their own benefit is back in the news, reminding all why it's a bad law and should be repealed.
The state law that allows county sheriffs to keep unspent jail food money to supplement their own pay is a relic of a bygone age and should be repealed. But the same dysfunctional system in Montgomery that makes almost any meaningful reform impossible stymies any attempt to abolish the food money trough, too.

Blogger Comments:  The Daily is right on the money.  The inmate food funds should not be a means to supplement the sheriffs of Alabama's pay.  What incentive does a sheriff have to feed nutritional meals to inmates with a law such as this on the books?  We believe that we have a lot of honest sheriffs in the State of Alabama that have no intent to deprive their inmates of nutritional meals.  However, what we have seen here in Morgan County and across the state is some greedy sheriffs who can't keep their hands off the cookie jar.  We get angry over animal shelters that abuse animals in their care, we punish those who abandon animals, and starve chained animals, it is time we also focus on sheriffs across the state that abuse inmates by depriving them of nutritional meals.

The 1939 law that allows sheriffs to pocket money left over after feeding jail inmates dates to when most county jails were little more than Andy Griffith’s drunk tank. Now, however, county jails are mini-prisons, housing inmates for extended periods, up to years in some cases, and taking in inmates from crowded state and federal lockups.

Blogger Comments:  So true again Daily.  We must focus on the future of Morgan County. All cities within Morgan County pay the sheriff's office to house their inmates. The bloggers believe that Sheriff Franklin has shown her true colors.  We still do not know how much money Franklin has taken from the inmate food funds since taking office.  One thing the bloggers are confident of is that the June 2015 removal of $160,000.00 was not the first time.  Time will tell.  

As a result, jail food money can add up.
For example, an audit by the Alabama Department of Public Accounts, which covered a 2½-year period ending May 31, 2014, showed a final balance of $199,204.82 in the Morgan County Jail inmate food account. The Sheriff’s Office received $778,373 and spent $717,681.88 to feed inmates during the 30-month audit period, the audit showed.
That’s roughly a $60,000 difference in what was taken in and what was spent over those 30 months.

Blogger Comments:  $778,204.82 seems like a lot of money to feed inmates over a 30-month time frame but it takes a lot of money to provide nutritional meals to a jail filled to capacity.  

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin is currently involved in a legal dispute over whether a consent degree prohibiting her predecessor from pocketing unspent food money applies to her as well. Regardless of what happens in this instance, the law needs to go.

Blogger Comments:  This issue should not have happened.  Franklin knew prior to taking office that the funds are untouchable.  What we can't understand is why Franklin did not have her attorney submit a request to the Federal Judge and request access to those funds prior to just taking them. As it turns out the Federal Consent Decree was not even a deterrent in keep the sheriff out of the food funds.  In most cases when a judge rules on a case, the Judge's orders are final.

Allowing county sheriffs to keep unspent food money for their personal benefit creates perverse intensives. First, it creates an incentive to feed inmates — many of whom are awaiting trial and thus still innocent until proven guilty — on the cheap. A judge held that Franklin’s predecessor, Greg Bartlett, was so excessive in that regard that all designated food money had to be spent on inmates.

Blogger Comments:  When all is said and done in regards to the inmate food funds alone, we do not believe Bartlett's use of inmate food funds will hold a candle to Franklin's use of the food funds.  Again, Decatur Daily is right on the money.  Each inmate is innocent until proven guilty.  Either way whether the inmate is innocent or guilty, their punishment is being in jail, not to be fed on the cheap.

Second, it creates an incentive to maximize jail occupancy, and the Morgan County Jail is certainly occupied. The current jail opened in 2006 in response to crowding and deteriorating conditions at the old jail, and it already has had a major expansion in order to take in more inmates from the now-closed Decatur City Jail.

Blogger Comments:  The Daily is right on the money again.  Not only is the act of creating the inmate food funds an incentive to maximize jail occupancy, it has maximized the jail occupancy.  Right now, there is a large number of inmates sleeping on what the sheriff's office calls boats laying on the floor of the jail.  

One need not be a trained economist to see the danger in such an incentive structure, but that doesn’t mean the Legislature or county commissions are eager to do anything about it.

Blogger Comments:  Both the Legislature and the county commissions would rather allow sheriff's in the State of Alabama to let the inmates go hungry than to act to repeal a law that should not exist.  The Legislature does not want to go up against the Alabama Sheriff's Association because of the perceived power they have within the state.  The bloggers know firsthand that the Alabama Sheriff's Association has no problem pushing their weight around.  Instead of being intimidated, we posted the letter on the blog.  Maybe the bloggers are too naive to be intimidated. As to the sheriffs in the State of Alabama they have more power over their office and how they spend their money than any other agency within the state.  So, are we to believe that the Legislature and the county commission are too intimidated to take on the Alabama Sheriff's Association and some greedy sheriffs?  What about the inmates?  

Franklin is on both the Alabama Sheriff's Association Committee and the National Sheriff's Association Committee and so far, she has their backing.  What that tells us that the Legislature, the county commission, sheriff's associations, and at least some of the Top Cops in Alabama find it acceptable to take the inmate food funds as their own personal funds and let the inmates go hungry.

Franklin has been over paid since taking office in 2011, she rarely makes it into work.  Most sheriffs enjoy the luxury of doing a little meet and greet with their constituency.  Many folks enjoy walking into the sheriff's office and speaking to the sheriff about their loved one who is incarcerated and having the sheriff assure them that their loved one has nutritional meals and proper care.  When Franklin does make a cameo appearance to the sheriff’s office, she goes in through the side door so she does not have to interact with the families visiting their loved one.  

Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, said there have been no attempts by the Legislature to change the law since his failed attempt in 2009. Legislators are shy about trying to change the law because of a potential “political battle” with sheriffs and county commissioners in their districts, Treadaway said.

The state’s sheriffs “flooded” committee meeting rooms when his bill was being considered, he said.

Sheriffs, understandably, don’t want to take what amounts to a pay cut. County commissions don’t want to pony up more money directly from taxpayers to make up the difference. And lawmakers in Montgomery don’t want to deal with either group’s complaints.

Blogger Comments:  Of course the sheriffs flooded the committee meetings.  If the sheriffs want a pay raise, contact the Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely, at 256-232-0111 for advice, or sit down and prepare documentation that justifies the pay increase.  We the citizens of the State of Alabama should be appalled that the public officials we elected have no desire to ensure that the inmates in the State of Alabama are fed nutritional meals.  Instead the elected officials such as the county commissions and the Legislature sit on the sidelines accepting the situation because it is not their problem.  Well! County Commissions and Legislature, it is your problem.  In all fairness, the law stipulates that sheriffs may take left over food funds.  Unfortunately, the law has given the sheriffs an incentive to ensure overcrowding in the jails is common place.  The more inmates the sheriffs have in custody, the more money they have to pad their pockets.  More money does not mean more nutritional meals for the inmates. 

There are exceptions. Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely gave up pocketing unspent food money in 2010 when the Legislature passed a local law tying his salary to the highest-paid circuit court judge in the county.

Blogger Comments:  Blakely did give up the inmate food funds after taking them legally for approximately 24 years.  Maybe Blakely has a conscience.  We sure hope he does.  Just a little private thought by the bloggers.  We can't help but wonder how many elected officials and other law enforcement officers are willing to lie under oath for Sheriff Ana Franklin?  We are talking about placing your hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth So Help Me God?  There is no double meaning to those words.  There is no splitting hairs, no little white lies with your fingers crossed.  There is just the truth.

Other counties should follow Limestone’s example.
Sheriffs’ supplemental pay should not be left to what amounts to skimming from funds intended for other purposes. It’s bad for law enforcement, bad for inmates and possibly, in the long run, bad for taxpayers.

Blogger Comments:  We saved one of the most important comments for last.  Who suffers when the sheriff is allowed to skim funds from the inmate’s food account?  First and foremost, the inmates suffer from not receiving nutritional meals including fresh vegetables and fruit.  Many of the inmates have medical conditions such as diabetics that require specific types of food in their diet with additional snacks and juice throughout the day. Inmates whose religious believes do not allow them to eat certain foods.  Inmates who are suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases also suffer.  We must remember being in jail is the punishment.  The sheriff’s office is the inmates care giver.  The buck currently stops with the sheriff.  Maybe that is why the county commissions and the Legislatures does not want to get involved.  It is easier to ignore a big financial burden and let the inmates suffer than to fix the problem.  What does that say about our society?  We allow the treatment of inmates to suffer more than we would ever accept the suffering of our pets, wildlife, zoo keepers, and marine life in captivity.

Now!  What about the families who have to scrape up enough money to keep their loved one’s fed in jail.  Each week family after family walks in the Morgan County Jail and adds money to their loved one’s account so that they do not go hungry.  A large portion of the money the families put on the accounts goes into the sheriff’s funds.  The same goes for the funds families place on the telephone service for the jail.  Did we ever mention how many of those calls are dropped during the conversations?  More lost money for the families who are already struggling.  


 http://www.decaturdaily.com/opinion/editorials/jail-food-law-needs-repeal/article_715409a0-533c-56c1-a353-215e7f69292e.html



2 comments:

  1. Did you know there are 3142 counties and parishes in the US? Each one has a sheriff or equivalent. Of all those counties how many have laws allowing the sheriff to pocket the 'profits' from the inmate food fund? Just 67. And where are all those 67 counties. Right here in Alabama. We're unique. No state quite like us. Don't it make you proud? Or do you just want to hide your face in shame.

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