One investigative journalist reporting for The Birmingham News recently uncovered an astonishing legal provision that has allowed Alabama’s sheriffs to profit off of inmate food-provision accounts. According to Alabama’s Food Bill, sheriffs are personally responsible for keeping their inmates fed. Most of the state’s inmates are provided less than $2 per inmate per day. If sheriffs are able to feed the prison population for less than that, then they are legally allowed to “keep and retain” any money left in the account.
Connor Sheets, the journalist who broke this news story, found further evidence that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has personally profited over $750,000 from food provisions in the past three years. According to Sheets, this estimate is conservative because the sheriff was not required to claim any profits above $250,000 a year. Sheriff Entrekin recently purchased a $740,000 beach house with the money that could’ve been spent on feeding inmates, and the entire process was entirely legal. Sheriff Entrekin explains that the law explicitly states that the food provision fund is a personal account, so there is nothing new or unique about his use of inmate’s food funds for personal gain. In fact, sheriffs all across the state have been following the same practice for decades. It’s unclear how much money sheriffs have profited across the state because most sheriffs do not voluntarily disclose the money in these accounts as income.
One of the journalist’s main sources, Matt Qualls, was arrested just days after the initial story was published. Qualls is currently facing six charges including drug trafficking after police received an anonymous tip. He is currently being detained on a $55,000 bond in a jail that Entrekin oversees.