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Outdated laws allow Sheriffs to pocket taxpayer cash

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After Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin made headlines for claiming inmate food revenue on his ethics forms, we wanted to check and see if anyone locally did the same.

Entrekin purchased a $740,000 beach house on the canal in Orange Beach. His annual salary is near $90,000. He denied using inmate food money to help pay for that beach house, deeming that a “bald-faced lie.”

So how does inmate food funding work?

Sheriffs get $1.75 a day per inmate. That’s it, for three meals. So 55 cents a meal. That’s for diabetics, pregnant women, everybody. For local sheriffs, that’s simply not enough.

Sheriffs get 5 cents per inmate to manage the food fund, but that doesn’t amount to much for the three sheriffs we spoke to who had claimed some money on their ethics forms with the state.

Sheriff Hoss Mack of Baldwin County said he formerly refused to take that 5 cents until it was taxed regardless. Now, he says he takes it and donates it to local charities. He is able to balance the books with the assistance of federal inmate funding and from Bay Minette.

Sheriff Ray Norris in Clarke County has a unique fix to his inmate feeding problem. He says you simply can’t feed inmates on $1.75 a day, and puts his 5 cents per inmate right back into the food fund. He also travels out of state to personally find food deals.

“They aren’t animals,” Norris said.

Sheriff Brock of Conecuh County did not return our calls or answer the phone after repeated attempts. We also drove to Evergreen to talk to him, and he wasn’t there.

Sheriff Sam Cochran doesn’t touch the inmate food fund money in Mobile after his predecessor was accused of taking money from it to pad his retirement. Instead, it’s contracted out and the commission makes up the difference.

All three Sheriffs went out of the inmate feeding business, saying the state needs to figure out a better way and not add to the workload Sheriffs already have.

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