Ala. sheriffs sign 'oaths' to not misuse state jail food funds

The move was an attempt to put an end to some sheriffs' longstanding practice of pocketing "excess" state money they receive to feed state inmates


By Connor Sheets
Alabama Media Group

ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. — Nine Alabama sheriffs have sent the state signed affidavits stating that they will use state jail food funds only to feed state inmates.

Gov. Kay Ivey updated the affidavits - which county sheriffs must sign to receive the state inmate-feeding money - last month to include an "oath" that they will not use the funds for any other purpose.

The move was an attempt to put an end to some sheriffs' longstanding practice of pocketing "excess" state money they receive to feed state inmates in their county jails but do not use for that purpose. The practice has been a major point of controversy in Alabama since AL.com reported in March that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin had pocketed more than $750,000 worth of inmate-feeding funds over the previous three years and proceeded to purchase a $740,000 beach house in September 2017.

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin ran into trouble in federal court over a dispute that involved, among other things, her using the jail food fund to invest in a crooked car lot. 

Advocates and other observers initially expressed concern about whether sheriffs would try to resist the move. But the office of state Comptroller Kathleen Baxter had already received nine signed affidavits by Friday afternoon. The sheriffs reported the number of state inmates housed in their county jails in August and requested reimbursement by the state at a rate of $1.75 per inmate per day.

So far, the sheriffs of Bullock, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Covington, DeKalb, Escambia, Shelby and Sumter counties have complied with Ivey's new policy. 

The sheriffs of Alabama's 57 other counties have yet to send the state affidavits for the cost of feeding state inmates in August.

That is not unusual, though, according to Baxter, who said that sheriffs can submit the affidavits as often as they like, as long as the state receives them by the end of each fiscal year.

"The sheriffs will request reimbursement whenever they want to," Baxter told AL.com Friday. "So the sheriffs could wait an entire year to request their reimbursement, or they could do it monthly or they could do it quarterly. They don't have to do it every month ... If they want the money they'll have to fill out the forms."

Sheriff's offices in a number of counties, including Jefferson and Montgomery, have long turned any money allocated to feed inmate that is not used for that purpose over to their respective county governments.

Last month, Ivey announced that as of Sept. 1 the affidavits would include new language stating that sheriffs take an "oath" that the state funds will only be spent only on "food for prisoners in the county jail" and "preparing food, serving food and other service incident to the feeding of prisoners." The previous version of the affidavit did not include language that restricted what the money could be spent on.

Ivey applauded the nine sheriffs for signing and submitting the new affidavit forms.

"It is great to see that sheriffs are supporting my decision and ensuring that public funds are being used for public purposes," she said in a Friday statement. "We must do what is right by the people of Alabama and be good stewards of tax payer dollars."

The affidavit only applies to funds sheriffs use to feed state inmates in their county jails. As such, it does not apply to funds provided to sheriffs by federal, county or municipal governments to feed any of their inmates housed in the jails.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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