In Alabama, Sheriffs Receive Bonuses for Cheating Prisoners

Target: Alabama Governor Dr. Robert Bentley

Goal: Don’t allow state sheriffs to keep money intended for state-wide prison system.

Almost 75 years after its inception, a controversial (and outdated) Alabama law may finally be terminated—that is, if Sheriff Mike Rainey gets his way. The law, which was passed in 1939, allows state sheriffs to pocket leftover money provided by the local, state, and federal government for the intention of feeding inmates at local prisons. Once the obligation to feed the prisoners is met (no matter how inadequately), that leftover money is split among the sheriffs.

Sheriffs like Mike Rainey, who alone received a little more than $295,000 for his county, are allowed to add to their salary from this fund once their responsibility is met. With a system like this, it is not hard to imagine how easily corruption can occur. While the prisoners get bottom-of-the-barrel nutrition, sheriffs are busy stuffing their wallets.

“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,” explained Rainey. “They’re not getting filet mignon, but they’re certainly not being served green bologna, nor will they be served something like that.” Simply put, it is not fair that those in charge bank off of another’s misfortune.

Although attempts have already been made to overturn this law, most recently in 2009, the efforts have never made it to the Governor’s desk. This needs to change. Not only is Rainey hoping to update the system so that the responsibility of funding oversight lands on county commissions, rather than with the sheriffs; but he also wants to make sure that prisoners receive food that is both fresh and healthy—a right, not a privilege.


Dear Governor Bentley,

A current Alabama law allows state sheriffs to pocket leftover money provided by the state for the purpose of feeding local inmates. Once their obligation to provide food for prisoners has been met (even if inadequately), those in charge of the budget are able to add to their own salaries.

There is no doubt that legislation like this leads to huge amounts of corruption within this system. As could be expected, prisoners are left with cheap care and nutrition, and the sheriffs holding the purse strings are able to receive significant bonuses.

In order to ensure that everyone plays fair, this law must be overturned. I, the undersigned, urge you to side with Sheriff Mike Rainey in changing the current system so that a county commission oversees this funding—and not the sheriffs.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. Let’s put the sheriffs on a diet and see how they like it.

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