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Corruption

Sheriff Took $110,000 From Prison Food Fund – 49 Other Sheriffs Doing The Same

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An Alabama Sheriff was recently caught pocketing over $110,000 in taxpayer money that was allocated for feeding inmates in the county jail that he runs.

According to prosecutors, between the years of 2014 and 2016, Monroe County Sheriff Thomas Tate pocketed large sums of money that was supposed to buy food for inmates at the jail. Unfortunately, this is a common practice across the state, with many Sheriffs doing this out in the open, claiming that they aren’t doing anything wrong.

Sheriff Tate claims that a state law allows local police to keep any leftover tax money that was intended to feed county jail inmates. However, this leaves an obvious incentive for Sheriffs to cut corners or neglect their responsibilities in feeding inmates.

The Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice have been investigating this issue and were forced to file a lawsuit to gain access to the financial records of prisons and police departments throughout the state.

The organizations sued 49 Alabama county sheriffs over their “refusal to produce public records showing whether, and if so by how much, they have personally profited from funds allocated for feeding people in their jails,” according to a statement they released last month.

Aaron Littman, a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights says that the Sheriffs are intentionally misinterpreting the law.

“Our position is that this practice is illegal now, but it’s clear that many sheriffs believe its legal for them to do this. Clearly this is a practice which is problematic because it creates an incentive for sheriffs to spend as little as possible on feeding folks … and obviously when a minimal amount of money is approved for something and less than that is spent, the quality suffers,Littman told AL.com Thursday.

In the records that were forced out in court, it was revealed that Sheriff Tate’s office received a total of $110,459.77 from funds for inmate food was “declared excess and paid to Sheriff Thomas Tate.”

“I do it just like the law tells us to. That’s about all I have to say about that. We feed all our inmates good and the excess goes to the sheriff. If you declare it excess, you take it and you pay taxes on it,” Tate said during a brief phone interview with AL.com Friday.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin also openly admitted to personally taking funds from these accounts.

“The law says it’s a personal account and that’s the way I’ve always done it and that’s the way the law reads and that’s the way I do business. That’s the way the law’s written,” Entrekin said.

Entrekin reportedly paid for landscaping services at his home with checks that were taken from the inmate food fund.

According to landscaper Matt Qualls, Entrekin paid him $10 an hour to mow his lawn using checks that were labeled “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account.”

“I mowed his yard and his parents’ yard. I was out there pretty much every day, Monday through Friday, from the end of the school year into the summer of 2015. I saw that in the corner of the checks it said Food Provision, and 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. I put two and two together and realized that that money could have gone toward some meat or something,” Qualls said.

Entrekin responded to the accusations saying that, “I do have an account that says Food Provision on it. The sheriffs are being sued statewide about how this money is being used … I’m not commenting on that because there’s a lawsuit pending.”

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin reportedly lost $150,000 of taxpayer money from the county’s inmate food fund in a bad investment.

A study last year found that incarcerated people are six times more likely to contract food-borne illnesses than the rest of the population.


Image: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters.

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