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Sheriffs shouldn't pocket food profits

By Staff
Staff Editorial
Last week Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett made national news when he was jailed overnight by U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemons for not providing adequate meals for 300 inmates at the county jail.
Bartlett, who was released after providing the judge with a plan to provide better food, has also come under fire for the amount of money he has legally pocketed due to a state law that allows the elected sheriffs in 55 of the state's 67 counties to profit from any remaining money from their jail kitchen budgets.
"He makes money by failing to spend the allocated funds for food for the inmates," said Clemon during his ruling of a lawsuit filed by the Morgan County prisoners over conditions at the jail.
During court testimony, Bartlett, who earns about $64,000 per year, said he has made a $212,000 profit, including $95,000 in 2008, in the past three years. The Morgan County jail has a feeding budget of nearly $203,000, according to the Associated Press.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the $1.75-a-day-per-inmate system in Alabama dates to 1927, and the state is the only one in the U.S. to allow sheriffs to pocket extra food money.
Although Alabama sheriffs are personally liable for their jail food budgets, they shouldn't be allowed to profit from the leftover food money. Any remaining funds should go back to the jail budget, instead of their personal bank accounts.