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In Alabama Prisons, the Less Sheriffs Spend on Food for Inmates, the More They Earn

Adam Peck
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
“The Alabama legislature has tried to pass bills before repealing the 1939 law, most recently in 2009, but those bills have failed to advance to the Governor’s desk.”
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It took almost three quarters of a century, but one Sheriff in Alabama is finally speaking out against a 1939 law that allows for the state’s 67 sheriffs to keep leftover money the state provides to each municipality for feeding inmates in local prisons.

Sheriff Mike Rainey reportedly received $295,294 from the local, state and federal governments to spend on food for the county’s inmate population. But thanks to the old law, Rainey is entitled to pocket any money left over after he fulfills his responsibility of feeding his inmates.

It’s not hard to imagine how such a system could lead to massive corruption. In 2009, former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett was himself put behind bars after he admitted to keeping more than $200,000 from the prison’s food budget while the inmates he oversaw were provided with inadequate food.

Remarkably, Bartlett may not have actually broken any laws, a point the Alabama Sheriffs Association made to defend Bartlett during his trial.

Sheriff Rainey, who is calling on the legislature to end the current system in favor of allowing county commissions to oversee the funding, says he has donated most of his potential earnings to charity, upwards of $10,000 so far. He also wants to ensure that inmates are served fresh, healthy food, he told the Montgomery Advertiser:

“Incarceration is punishment. I know some people think you shouldn’t worry about what an inmate eats, but I think it’s a moral issue,” Rainey said. “They’re not getting filet mignon, but they’re certainly not being served green bologna, nor will they be served something like that.”

The Alabama legislature has tried to pass bills before repealing the 1939 law, most recently in 2009, but those bills have failed to advance to the Governor’s desk.



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ABOUT Adam Peck

Adam Peck is a Reporter/Blogger for Think Progress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Adam grew up just outside of New York City, and attended Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism. Before joining Think Progress, Adam was an intern at Countdown with Keith Olbermann at MSNBC in New York, and at Campus Progress in Washington, D.C. He was also the founder and editor of Think Magazine, the largest collegiate news organization on Long Island. His work has appeared in The New York Times, CNN and the BBC.

That is journalism. It makes

That is journalism. It makes me think of Gary Null, an excellent one, as well.

Thank you for this spread!

Aha! That's why the boxes

Aha! That's why the boxes that contain meat that is distributed in Alabama prisons are clearly marked: Not For Human Consumption. First, prisons are a profit making industry for many wealthy Americans. Incentives are passed on to those who fill and oversee the prisons that make profit for said individuals. Access to and distribution of sub-standard food is incentive based for management, an opportunity to generate wealth.
Second, I believe that the prison industry is one of the most corrupt institutions in America. It's a for profit operation, facilities are over-crowded, people of modest means are less likely to successfully navigate the justice system and avoid prison, racial profiling has never been adequately addressed, minimal attention and efforts are directed at education and rehabilitation. It's just another system that generates wealth for investors.

Again. While prisoners should

Again. While prisoners should not be abused or starved, nor should they be fed unwholesome foods that could result in poor health, still, they don't need to be fed better than the average working American.

I see entirely too many thugs being released from prison, who should be on the covers of Health and Fitness magazines. These guys don't look like they just got out of prison. They look like they won a life membership to a quality health spa.

Whenever I see one of these 225 lb muscle bound thugs with glowing skin and vascularity like the girders on a bridge; I just know that he's a recent prison release.

I don't know that we should be rewarding people for a career in crime.

Roadkill or dumpster stew for

Roadkill or dumpster stew for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The local SPCA doesn't have any cats or dogs available for adoption in Alabama, I'll bet.

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