(WBRC) - Just because it's legal doesn't make it right. That's how I feel about Etowah County's Sheriff banking over $750,000 over the last three years with unused funds from his jail food program. Let me be clear, while no laws were broken, it certainly calls into question the subjectivity of the Sheriff when monies not spent on food can by law go into his pocket. The optics of all this don't get any better for the Sheriff given the discovery last week by AL.com that he recently purchased a $740,000 house in Orange Beach. By all appearances, we have someone building a real estate portfolio on the backs, no out of the stomachs, of Alabama prisoners under his jurisdiction.
While this one Sheriff is getting all the attention the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice have filed a lawsuit requesting access to public records to determine exactly how much money directed to feeding prisoners is making it into Alabama sheriff's pockets. I fully expect the numbers to climb as these two advocacy groups have stated some 49 Alabama sheriffs have refused to provide records where food funds were spent. What are they worried about?
So, a couple of things – first, we need to get an accounting of all Alabama sheriff "food income" sooner than later. Here's what I'd like you all to do - reach out to your local sheriff and ask them to comply with the request to provide information on their spending. Number two, the law needs to change. While not guaranteed, this outdated law could lead to the misuse of funds if there continues to be a for-profit component associated with an inmate feeding program. Call your local State Representative and ask them to weigh in on the matter.