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Crime Alabama Moves to Limit Sheriffs From Pocketing Jail Food Money

21:36  12 july  2018
21:36  12 july  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

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The move is virtually certain to infuriate sheriffs in at least some of Alabama ’s 67 counties, and the governor’s order may be tested in the courts. A later sheriff in Morgan County used unspent jail - food money to invest 0,000 in a used-car dealership.

The move is virtually certain to infuriate sheriffs in at least some of Alabama ’s 67 counties, and the governor’s order may be tested in the courts. A later sheriff in Morgan County used unspent jail - food money to invest 0,000 in a used-car dealership.

Setting aside dueling opinions about the legality of the practice, Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the state comptroller to stop the payment of jail food allowances directly to county sheriffs. © Butch Dill/Associated Press Setting aside dueling opinions about the legality of the practice, Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the state comptroller to stop the payment of jail food allowances directly to county sheriffs.

Alabama’s governor has begun to cut off a gravy train for the state’s sheriffs: the unspent money for prisoners’ meals that the sheriffs have long been allowed to keep for themselves.

The practice, born of a bickered-over ambiguity in a state law, has let sheriffs pocket tax dollars that over the decades almost certainly ran into the millions. To curtail the practice, Gov. Kay Ivey ordered in a memorandum to the state comptroller that payments of certain funds related to jail food “no longer be made to the sheriffs personally.” Instead, the governor wrote, the money must be paid to county general funds or official accounts.

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Critics of the practice welcomed the governor’s action on Wednesday but said it resolved only part of the problem because it did not apply to every type of payment related to jail food . Even so, the move is sure to infuriate sheriffs in at least some of Alabama ’s 67 counties

Kay Ivey ordered an end to a decades-old practice of paying sheriffs personally to feed prisoners and then allowing the sheriffs to keep unspent funds for themselves.

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“Public funds should be used for public purposes,” Ms. Ivey, a Republican, said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s that simple.”

Critics of the practice welcomed the governor’s action on Wednesday but said it resolved only part of the problem because it did not apply to every type of payment related to jail food.

Even so, the move is sure to infuriate sheriffs in at least some of Alabama’s 67 counties, and the governor’s order may be tested in the courts. Economic disclosure forms filed by sheriffs suggest that many do not take the leftover money, sometimes because of local laws. But some do: Records show that the sheriff in Etowah County, in northeast Alabama, for example, has taken more than $670,000 in recent years.

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Kay Ivey ordered an end to a decades-old practice of paying sheriffs personally to feed prisoners and then allowing the sheriffs to keep unspent funds for themselves. (via: trendolizer.com).

“ Alabama ’s governor has cut off a gravy train for the state’s sheriffs : the unspent money for prisoners’ meals that the sheriffs have long been allowed to Kay Ivey ordered in a memorandum to the state comptroller that payments of funds related to jail food “no longer be made to the sheriffs personally.”

The Alabama Sheriffs Association did not respond to a message on Wednesday seeking comment about the governor’s order, and several sheriffs declined to comment.

Some sheriffs and their allies have called in the past for changes to a system that critics said was unique in the United States and created a powerful incentive to cut corners and mistreat prisoners. But barring a change in state law, the sheriffs have argued, retaining the unspent funds for personal use was legal and acceptable.

The practice has been the subject of periodic controversy. In 2009 a federal judge jailed the sheriff of Morgan County after concluding that the sheriff was in “blatant” breach of previous agreements to care adequately for prisoners.

At the time, the sheriff had retained more than $200,000, while the breakfast that Morgan County was serving to prisoners was sometimes no more than a slice of toast, part of an egg and several spoonfuls of grits. At one point, prisoners were fed corn dogs at every meal for about three months, after two area sheriffs had bought a truckload of sausages at a bargain price.

Alabama governor: Sheriffs shouldn't pocket jail food money

  Alabama governor: Sheriffs shouldn't pocket jail food money Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has moved to end a practice that allowed some state sheriffs to pocket leftover from money jail food programs.Ivey directed the state comptroller on Tuesday to stop paying a food service allowance — worth about $4,000 annually per sheriff — to sheriffs' personal bank accounts. Ivey is also asking lawmakers to clarify state law so that a larger pot of money for purchasing food, which totals almost $8 million annually, cannot be kept for sheriffs' personal use, spokesman Daniel Sparkman said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has moved to end a practice that allowed some county sheriffs to pocket leftover money from jail food programs, but advocacy groups said the controversial practice won't stop unless lawmakers change state law.

- An Alabama sheriff legally used more than 0,000 of funds meant to feed inmates to purchase a beach house. In January, advocacy groups sued for access to public records to find out how much jail food money is given to sheriffs and pocketed .

a man standing in a kitchen: Lunches being delivered at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala. For years, sheriffs in Alabama have been able to profit personally by spending less than the state allowance on food for prisoners. © Sarah Dudik/The Gadsden Times, via Associated Press Lunches being delivered at the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala. For years, sheriffs in Alabama have been able to profit personally by spending less than the state allowance on food for prisoners. A later sheriff in Morgan County used unspent jail-food money to invest $150,000 in a used-car dealership.

And this year, when the Alabama Media Group described the Etowah County sheriff’s handling of leftover food money, it reported that he had purchased a beach house for $740,000. The sheriff, who said he was acting in accordance with state law and angrily denied wrongdoing, was defeated last month in a primary. He did not respond to a message on Wednesday.

Ms. Ivey, a former state treasurer who became governor last year, said in her memorandum to the comptroller that “recent events brought this policy to my attention,” and she asked the Legislature to consider changing the wording of the Depression-era statute that sheriffs have relied on to justify their retention of the jail food money.

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“ Alabama ’s governor has cut off a gravy train for the state’s sheriffs : the unspent money for prisoners’ meals that the sheriffs have long been allowed to Kay Ivey ordered in a memorandum to the state comptroller that payments of funds related to jail food “no longer be made to the sheriffs personally.”

Alabama ’s Republican governor on Wednesday moved to end a decades-old practice that allowed the state’s sheriffs to pocket money set aside The Alabama Sheriffs Association did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment. But Ivey’s order is not the final word on the jail food money .

The governor’s lawyers acknowledged in an internal review that state attorneys general in Alabama had reached conflicting conclusions about the leftover funds.

One, Troy King, ruled in a 2008 opinion that a “sheriff may retain any surplus from the food service allowance as personal income” and noted that “most of the sheriffs in the state have retained the food and service allowances for personal income for years.” Mr. King, who left office in 2011, is running for attorney general again this year; he is competing in the Republican primary runoff on July 17. He was not available for comment on Wednesday.

In the last two decades, though, two other attorneys general have reached the opposite view, that sheriffs were not entitled to excess food money. In the more recent opinion, in 2011, Luther Strange said that “neither the sheriff nor the county may use the surplus for any purpose other than future expenses in feeding prisoners.”

The governor’s office said it was not clear why the practice of paying the food money to sheriffs personally and letting them keep any surplus had remained in effect after that ruling. In an email on Wednesday, Clinton Carter, the state finance director, said Alabama officials had recently “re-evaluated our interpretation” of Mr. Strange’s 2011 opinion.

Advocates for ending the practice called for action by state lawmakers to abolish it completely.

“For decades some Alabama sheriffs have abused the public trust by placing personal profit over meeting the basic human needs of people in their care,” said Frank Knaack, the executive director of Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit group in Montgomery that works on criminal justice issues. “We thank Governor Ivey for taking the first step to rein in this abuse and urge Alabama legislators to heed her call to end this for good.”

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