Alabama ends policy giving inmate food funds directly to sheriffs

Alabama ends policy giving inmate food funds directly to sheriffs
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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday ended a state policy that gave funding to feed prison inmates directly to sheriffs, following backlash over officials pocketing thousands of dollars in excess funds for their own personal use.

Ivey withdrew the policy of “paying prisoner food service allowances directly to sheriffs in their personal capacities" in a memo to the state comptroller, The Associated Press reported.

The governor said Alabama should follow a 2011 attorney general’s opinion that states the money can be used only to feed inmates, instead of following the 2008 policy that treats the money as "personal income." The funds will now be sent to a county general fund or an account created for the sheriff to use, according to the AP.

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Ivey also called on state lawmakers to pass a measure specifically stating that sheriffs can’t keep the excess food funds for themselves, noting that she had solely changed how the funds were dispersed.

“I have changed the way these funds are handled because it is the right thing to do,” the governor said, according to the wire service. “The law is clear, the attorney general’s opinion is clear, and now I have been clear. I urge the Legislature to follow my lead and codify this policy into law during the next regular session.”

The move came after high-profile incidents involving sheriffs keeping the funds for their personal use.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin lost his GOP primary bid for reelection last month after AL.com reported that he had pocketed nearly $750,000 of the excess inmate food funds over three years.

And Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett was found to be in contempt of court in 2009 for failing to properly feed inmates in his jail. He had kept $212,000 of the excess funds.