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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Another Proposed Bill about Inmate Food Funds and the Sheriffs

It is interesting, isn't it, that instead of simply amending, or better yet, canceling that antiquated law that encourages county sheriffs to starve their inmates and pocket the money, individual counties are stepping up to correct the situation piecemeal.  And each one takes an amendment to the Constitution (another antiquated document)! The Alabama Sheriff's Association is a powerful lobby in Montgomery and has fought a state-wide solution every time it comes up.  Shame!

MONTGOMERY — The Lawrence County sheriff would receive a raise and new rules about how to spend money designated for feeding inmates under a proposed constitutional amendment in the Legislature.  House Bill 526 is sponsored by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. He said Wednesday it is in response to issues in other counties, including one sheriff legally using more than $750,000 of funds meant to feed inmates to purchase a beach house.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell didn’t return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday.“I would think any sheriff would be supportive" of the bill, Johnson said.
The proposal also mandates that the sheriff earn the same amount as the probate judge. Mitchell earns $66,935 annually. The probate judge earns $77,839.
Inmate food funding also has been a point of controversy in Morgan County, and the Legislature this session approved a proposed constitutional amendment for it that’s similar to what Johnson is proposing in Lawrence County. It will go before voters later this year.
Meanwhile, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said he follows a state law passed before World War II that allows sheriffs to keep “excess” inmate-feeding funds for themselves. The sheriff’s annual salary is more than $93,000. He and his wife purchased a four-bedroom house with an in-ground pool and canal access in September for $740,000.  Stay tuned for another blog on conditions in the Etowah County jail.
Johnson’s bill says any money designated for inmate food has to be kept in a separate fund, spent on that purpose or other law enforcement purposes and can be carried over from year to year. Any shortfalls in the fund would have to be covered by the Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson’s bill is late in this legislative session expected to end next week. If it were passed by the Legislature, Lawrence County voters would then vote on the constitutional change. Similar bills for a few other counties have been filed recently.

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