During this week’s Baldwin County Commission meeting, Sheriff Hoss Mack gave a presentation on his department’s spending for jail inmate meals, in light of recent reporting around the state of other sheriffs using inmate meal funds to supplement their own salaries.
Mack said that wasn’t the case in Baldwin County, as inmate meal spending is actually funded at a deficit from the state.
“Meals cost $1.13 each or $3.38 per day,” Mack said. “The state gives us $1.75 per day to feed an inmate, so we’re losing $1.63 per day.”
With an average of 500 to 510 inmates per day in the Baldwin County jail facility, that amounts to an almost $815 per day loss that has to be made up.
Mack said he uses a housing agreement with the federal government and the city of Bay Minette to help bridge the funding gap on inmate meal plans.
Mack said all of the county jail’s meals are prepared by Aramark Industries - a food vendor who also provides services to several universities and hospitals across the state.
Mack said the meals follow a full dietary plan approve by a dietitian, and that 21 different meal plans are currently available for inmates.
“A lot of those are governed by medical conditions and other health issues inmates might have,” Mack said. “Any deviation from our dietitian approve plan has to be signed off on by a physician.”
Mack said he has never taken any money from the food account as personal income and he also makes sure he samples some of the meals himself several times a month.
Mack said he would he and other sheriffs around the state would like to change the law that allows some sheriffs to take leftover funds as personal income, but efforts to pass such legislation have been unsuccessful.
Mack gave several suggestions to the commission should they want to manage the inmate feeding system differently: have the county commission take it over, have the system remain the same or try a push for local legislation that ensures all money going toward the feeding of inmates would be used for feeding or other law enforcement needs.
Commissioner Skip Gruber said he felt fine with the way the system was being managed currently.
“I’m perfectly happy the way you’re working it,” Gruber said. “The program you’ve established has been working great, and I don’t want to see anything change.”
Commission Chairman Frank Burt said he also approved of how Mack was handling the program.
“You handle it well,” Burt said. “You can’t be responsible for all the sheriffs in the state.”