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Most prisoners are supposed to get all of $1.75 of food a day—but sheriffs take a cut of that before anyone eats.
Alabama law lets sheriffs keep whatever doesn’t get spent on food from their jail food funds. Now 49 of those sheriffs are refusing to disclose how much of that money made it to detainees’ plates, and how much landed in their own pockets.
Since July, two civil-rights groups have been asking Alabama sheriffs for their bookkeeping on jailhouse meal funds. The two groups, the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, have good reason to ask: One Alabama sheriff recently came under fire for taking money from her jail’s food fund and investing it in an alleged get-rich-quick car loan scheme run by a convicted fraudster.
Human rights advocates are suing dozens of Alabama sheriffs, seeking greater transparency into a funding stream many believe creates an incentive to skimp on food purchased for prison inmates and allows sheriffs to pocket any savings personally.
Under Alabama law, sheriffs are required to turn over money they collect in an official capacity to their respective county commission, except funding “received for feeding prisoners.” In many counties, the sheriffs also have full discretion over how any leftover money is spent.
A task force aimed to reform Alabama’s juvenile-justice system hopes to make more progress this legislative session.
Its been months of research and evaluations of Alabama’s Juvenile Justice System, for members of the Alabama Juvenile-Justice Task force.
For Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, one of the most troubling findings, is the lack of resources and alternative programs for juvenile offenders, especially in rural areas. “Our rural counties they basically have a juvenile probation officer and not a whole lot else” she explained.
Two advocacy groups say they have sued Alabama sheriffs seeking records about whether they have personally profited from jailhouse food programs.
The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice announced the lawsuit Monday against 49 sheriffs they said did not comply with a public records request seeking information about the food programs.
A state law says state sheriffs can “keep and retain” leftover food money and some sheriffs have kept the money as income.