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Alabama Sheriffs Association comes up with food allowance bill

Many of Alabama's sheriffs want the responsibility for feeding jail inmates to be taken away from them and given to county commissions.

Over half of the sheriffs in Alabama are financially responsible for feeding inmates in their jails. This is a long-standing state practice that has allowed sheriff’s to pocket any money leftover after buying food for inmates.

Sheriffs from all over Alabama gathered at a conference in Tuscaloosa last week to discuss how feeding inmates should be handled. The Alabama Sheriffs Association came up with a bill at the conference. They want the responsibility for feeding jail inmates to be taken away from sheriffs and given to county commissions.

Sheriffs say they’ll still feed the inmates. They just want the financial responsibility off of their shoulders.

Marshall County Sheriff, Phil Sims, said, “We have to put up the money ourselves personally from our own pocket, buy the food, and then whatever comes in from the state, if there’s anything left over, we keep as income.”

This system has caused controversies for sheriffs across the state. The food allowance bill would prevent some sheriffs from making more than others and keep sheriffs from losing money.

“It allows for any money that is profited or in excess to stay in the office of the sheriff as a discretionary account to be used only for law enforcement purposes like our other accounts are now,” said Sheriff Sims.

They are also pushing for more jail food funds.

Sheriff Sims said, “It’s $1.75 per person that the state gives us per inmate. You can’t feed anybody for $1.75, so there is talk about maybe trying to get that increase some, but again if it is increased, it’s all going to come back to the office of the sheriff anyway.”