Alabama sheriffs lose jail food funds

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After criticisms that Alabama sheriffs profited by skimping on jailhouse meals, Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday that the state no longer will give any jail food funds to “sheriffs personally.”

In a memo to the state comptroller, Ivey rescinded the state’s 2008 policy that her office said paid a portion of food funds to sheriffs in their personal capacities.” Ivey said the money should be directed to the county general fund or to an account established for the sheriffs’ official use.

“Public funds should be used for public purposes — it’s that simple,” Ivey said in a statement.

The change covers only a small portion of total food funds and does not end the long-running dispute over some sheriffs keeping leftover money. However, Ivey urged lawmakers to address the issue in the next legislative session.

For years, some sheriffs have made extra money — sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars — under a Depression-era funding system that critics have argued gives a profit incentive to feed inmates poorly. A law passed when chain gangs were common gives sheriffs $1.75 a day to feed each prisoner. The state also gives a food-service allowance. State law has said sheriffs can retain excess money, but there has been dispute over whether that means personally or in their official capacity.

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