A hat tip to legal scholar, constitutional champion and TV pundit and blogger, Jonathan Turley for putting us on to the greedy machinations of Morgan County, Alabama Sheriff Greg Bartlett. It seems that Sheriff Barlett has been jailed, held on contempt by U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon after he learned that inmates incarcerated in Sheriff Bartlett’s jail went hungry, while the good sheriff pocketed their meal money.
It is not enirely clear from available reports whether the sheriff personally benefitted from this scheme, or if money not spent on food was used to pay for any other legitimate expenses of the county, but it seems, from a report by KPIX television in San Francisco, that the sherrif has, in fact been pocketing the money:
The sheriff, who showed no emotion when his arrest was ordered, had testified that he legally pocketed about $212,000 over three years with surplus meal money but denied that inmates were improperly fed. [They used to call this skimming when the mob did it in Las Vegas. -B.F.]
Clemon, however, said the sheriff would be jailed until he comes up with a plan to provide the 300 jail inmates with nutritionally adequate meals, as required by a 2001 court order. Rhea said a plan may be drawn up Wednesday night and sent to the judge.
Clemon said the Alabama law allowing sheriffs to take home surplus meal money is “probably unconstitutional,” but his ruling was limited to the finding that the court order was violated. It didn’t address whether the law should be overturned.
“He makes money by failing to spend the allocated funds for food for inmates,” Clemon said.
While the sheriff is making a bundle, the inmates are slowly starving:
At the hearing, 10 prisoners told Clemon meals are so small that they’re forced to buy snacks from a for-profit store the jailers operate. Most of the inmates appeared thin, with baggy jail coveralls hanging off their frames.
Some testified they spent hundreds of dollars a month at the store, which Bartlett said generates profits used for training and equipment.
Inmates told of getting half an egg, a spoonful of oatmeal and one piece of toast most days at their 3 a.m. daily breakfast. Lunch is usually a handful of chips and two sandwiches with barely enough peanut butter to taste.
“It looks like it was sprayed on with an aerosol can,” testified Demetrius Hines, adding he’s lost at least 35 pounds in five months since his arrest on drug charges.
According to Alabama law, Sheriff Bartlett receives $1.75 per day per inmate to feed his prisoners, yet Bartlett stated that he made $95,000.00 in profit on his food service operation last year. Shades of the Sheriff of Nottingham, apparently this is standard operating practice throughout Alabama. One has to wonder what else the sheriff might be doing using the backs of prisoners and whether or not it is within the law. Alabama reintroduced the chain gang in 1995 and then, as the result of law suit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama was forced to abandon chain gangs. But that was then, what could be the case now?
Sheriff Bartlett is not the first person in authority ever to scheme to profit from his position, and likely won’t be the last. But it seems, that this is a blossoming problem, another example being deposed Sheriff Mike Corona, of Orange County, California who is currently on trial for corruption and the taking of bribes. (More on ex-Sheriff Corona another time.)
Just wondering, that given the current catastropic economic problems plauging the entire country, do we as law abiding citizens have to keep a closer eye on our law enforcement offficials?