Thursday, January 08, 2009

Judge Locks Up Sheriff in Own Jail for Starving Prisoners

Yesterday I posted about Federal Judge UW Clemon and his investigation of the Morgan Co. jail feeding practices.

Today the Montgomery Advertiser is reporting that Judge Clemon has arrested Sheriff Greg Bartlett over jail food.

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) -- A federal judge ordered an Alabama sheriff locked up in his own jail Wednesday after holding him in contempt for failing to adequately feed inmates while profiting from the skimpy meals.

U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon had court security arrest Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett after dramatic testimony from skinny prisoners about paper-thin bologna and cold grits. The hearing offered a rare look into Alabama's unusual practice of letting sheriffs pocket money left over from feeding inmates.

The sheriff, who showed no emotion when his arrest was ordered, had testified that he legally kept as personal income about $212,000 over three years with surplus meal money but denied that inmates were improperly fed.

Clemon, however, said the sheriff would be jailed until he comes up with a plan to provide the 300 jail inmates with nutrionally adequate meals, as required by a 2001 court order.

This is absolutely extraordinary! A judge locking up a Sheriff. I like this UW Clemon.

At the hearing, 10 prisoners told Clemon meals are so small that they're forced to buy snacks from a for-profit store the jailers operate. Most of the inmates appeared thin, with baggy jail coveralls hanging off their frames.

Some testified they spent hundreds of dollars a month at the store, which Bartlett said generates profits used for training and equipment.

Inmates told of getting half an egg, a spoonful of oatmeal and one piece of toast most days at their 3 a.m. daily breakfast. Lunch is usually a handful of chips and two sandwiches with barely enough peanut butter to taste.

"It looks like it was sprayed on with an aerosol can," testified Demetrius Hines, adding he's lost at least 35 pounds in five months since his arrest on drug charges.

Most prisoners said they supplement the meals by spending $20 a week or more on chips, oatmeal pies and other junk food at the jailhouse store.

Bartlett said he made about $95,000 last year feeding inmates after also receiving money from the county and the U.S. government for housing federal prisoners. Despite rising food costs, Bartlett said he made a $62,000 profit in 2007 and $55,000 in 2006.

Bartlett said he uses donations and special deals to make money. As an example, Bartlett said he and a neighboring sheriff recently split the $1,000 cost for an 18-wheeler full of corn dogs.

Prisoners testified they ate corn dogs twice a day for weeks.

I must admit I found the 'aerosol peanut butter' crack hysterically funny!

Allowing the Sheriff to directly profit from the kitchen of the jail is practiced in 55 of Alabama's 67 counties. Hopefully this case will set precedent and this idiotic practice will soon come to an end or at the very least Sheriff's will feed inmates more adequate diets.


Don said...

The link to the article in the Advertiser is

Clicking on the link here doesn’t take me there.

Loretta Nall said...

Thanks for the heads up Don. I have fixed the link. Had an extra space in there.

Anonymous said...

I had the honor of spending a weekend in the birmingham city jail after being arrested for less than a joint at a widespread panic show a few years ago. They fed us the same thing the whole time meat gravy over bread, I still gag when I think about it, I don't know if they profit from meals but it was, by far, the worst food I've ever eaten. Anybody profiting from people incarcerated is unacceptable.

Loretta Nall said...

Some people don't seem to realize that bad nutrition leads to poor health which leads to large health care expense incurred from those in prison/jail. Guess who pays for those health care expenses and expensive lawsuits like this one while the sheriff pockets the $212,000 for his own personal use? We, the taxpayers of Alabama, pay for it.

Another thing...some of the comments I have been reading on the story are deplorable. People think starvation is ok for anyone in jail.

When a judge sends someone to prison that, in and of itself IS the punishment. Removing them from society. All of the other things that happen like starvation, same sex sexual assault, deplorable conditions, the catching of a multitude of diseases those are all extra-judicially imposed and not intended to be part of the punishment.

Those who think those things are ok because someone is in prison are no better than the people who inhabit the jails to begin with and much much worse than some of them.

anon...I remember when they busted the Widespread Panic concert. Hell, they do that every year don't they?

Anonymous said...

Pretty much. Downtown hasn't been too bad the last few years but oak mt. was a scary scene and don't even think about going to an Orange beach show. The whole state pretty much sucks for concert cops. Panic always rips it up here though so I have to play thier silly game.
"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering the prisons."
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The House of the Dead.

Deb Murphree/Alabama Politics said...

In the state prison, there are boxes that come in to the kitchens with the words, "Not for Human Consumption". (fish boxes). I have heard this from two reliable sources, that have seen the boxes.

Mike said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you Loretta. The removal from society should be the punishment, not the other inhuman worries that inmates have to endure. If we truly want to rehabilitate the criminal, we should still treat him with human decency and at least put forth an effort to direct him to the right path in society.

@Anonymous, I don't include you as an aforesaid "criminal," for obvious reasons. You and everyone else that got busted at that concert got screwed!