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Delay likely in inmate food money legislation

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

A state legislator has not abandoned his plan to get a local bill passed to stop Morgan County sheriffs from keeping money left after feeding inmates.

State Rep. Ron Grantland, D-Hartselle, said he has a full agenda of legislation this session, and it will probably be next year before he introduces the local act in the Legislature.

A 1930s state law lets Alabama sheriffs keep money left over from feeding inmates. Sheriffs who operate the food program receive $1.75 per inmate per day.

Grantland wants to make that law non-applicable in Morgan County.

“I talked to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama a couple of times in my efforts to develop the legislation,” Grantland said. “I want it done right. I don’t want to put something out there that would make the county suffer.”

Grantland said there are optional methods. One would be to move the inmate food program under the County Commission. Another would be to leave it under the sheriff and designate leftover food money for the county’s General Fund.

He said he plans to study the food programs in other counties before drafting the local legislation.

“I’ve been overloaded with bills,” said Grantland. “I doubt that I’ll have it this session. It will more than likely be next year.”

The current session ends in June.

Six months ago, Reps. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, and Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said they would support a local bill.

At the time, Hammon said he thought the commission would have to make the request. Also during that time, while running for office, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he would support a bill if the commission approved.

Grantland said a commission resolution is a requirement only when legislation would have an adverse effect on county residents or the commission.

All of the local delegates said they would support a pay raise for the sheriff.

Grantland said Thursday that he would propose $80,000 or $85,000 for the sheriff’s annual salary. Currently it’s a little more than $60,000.

“An increased salary would benefit the sheriff in his retirement,” Grantland said.

During a two-year period, Bartlett received almost $104,000 after feeding inmates from a $267,927 allotment from the state Department of Corrections. That boosted his compensation to more than $100,000 each year.

Sheriffs in 62 of the state’s 67 counties may keep leftover money, however, in some counties the money goes to the General Fund. County Commissions are in charge of feeding inmates in five counties.

The county also furnishes Bartlett a $40,000 vehicle.

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