Alabama has a Depression-era law that allows sheriffs to “keep and retain” unspent money from jail food-provision accounts. Sheriffs across the state take excess money as personal income — and, in the event of a shortfall, are personally liable for covering the gap.
…Sheriffs across the state do the same thing and have for decades. But the scale of the practice is not clear: “It is presently unknown how much money sheriffs across the state have taken because most do not report it as income on state financial disclosure forms,” the Southern Center for Human Rights wrote in January.
…”A couple people I knew came through the jail, and they say they got meat maybe once a month, and every other day, it was just beans and vegetables,” Qualls told Sheets. “I put two and two together and realized that that money could have gone toward some meat or something.”
…In 2009, then-Sheriff Greg Bartlett of Morgan County was briefly tossed in jail after acknowledging that he had personally profited, to the tune of $212,000, from a surplus in the jail-food account. Prisoners testified about receiving meager meals.
To cut corners, Bartlett used charitable donations and “special deals,” as CBS put it — including once splitting a $1,000 truck full of corn dogs with a sheriff of a nearby county and then feeding the inmates corn dogs twice a day for weeks.
…In 2015, a sheriff in Morgan County loaned $150,000 from the inmate food fund to a corrupt car lot. The loan was revealed when the business, facing theft and scam charges, went bankrupt.