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Two counties vote to end Alabama’s “bonus” to sheriffs who cut costs on food for people in their jails.

A ubiquitous practice in Alabama allowed sheriffs to pocket the excess funds saved from food budgets in their local jails.Scottie Kay, “Jail Food Amendment Sees Support in Morgan Co. Ahead of Election,” WAAY, November 5, 2018.

That changed this year in Morgan and Cullman Counties, where voters approved measures amending local constitutions to remove what many—including Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry—saw as an incentive to mistreat people in jail.Greg Garrison, “Two Counties Vote To Stop Sheriffs Keeping Inmate Food Money,” AL.com, November 7, 2018; and Catherine Patterson, “Cullman Co. Sheriff Wants Voters To Vote ‘Yes’ On Jail Food Amendment,” WBRC, October 29, 2018. In some counties, such funds are required to be turned over to county government. Connor Sheets, “Etowah Sheriff Pockets $750K in Jail Food Funds, Buys $740k Beach House,” AL.com, March 13, 2018. A sheriff in Etowah County, Alabama, reportedly used some $750,000 of money originally intended for the jail’s food budget to buy himself a beach house and, in 2009, a federal judge held Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett in contempt of court for failing to feed people incarcerated at the jail properly while pocketing $212,000 of “excess” food funds.Sheets, “Etowah Sheriff Pockets $750K,” 2018; and Bayne Hughes, “Amendment Would Stop Morgan Sheriff from Using Jail Food Money, Increase Salary,” Decatur Daily, November 4, 2018. , https://www.decaturdaily.com/news/morgan_county/amendment-would-stop-morgan-sheriff-from-using-jail-food-money/article_fdd9eddc-c038-5772-b8d9-fc798ea81df4.html.