Alabama sheriffs operate with little oversight, and there are vast county-by-county disparities in how they execute their duties and enforce the law.
Sheriffs regularly release sick and injured inmates to avoid paying their hospital bills. But in Alabama, some defendants charged with violent offenses like murder have been let out. And some have gone on to commit new crimes.
Sheriffs in multiple Alabama counties refuse to pay for some of their jail inmates’ health care needs. The inmates are personally billed, and their bills can end up with collection agencies while they are still behind bars, wrecking their credit.
Audio obtained by AL.com and ProPublica shows the jail administrator wanted to see if they would be responsible for an inmate’s medical bills before sending her to the hospital. She died a day later.
Inmates suffering heart attacks, on the verge of diabetic comas and brutalized in jail beatings have been released so sheriffs wouldn’t have to pay for their medical care. Some were rearrested once they had recovered.
Sheriff Blake Turman says that after he beat then-Sheriff Dennis Meeks at the polls, he found that thousands of dollars worth of military equipment was missing and public funds were wasted. Meeks’ response: “He’s full of shit.”
Alabama sheriffs who lost reelection in 2018 personally pocketed funds and deleted public records, an investigation by AL.com and ProPublica found. Holes were drilled through government-issued smartphones and leftover rice was poured down the drain, among other things. It’s a longstanding tradition that sheriffs aren’t typically held accountable for.
Of 10 sheriffs who lost their reelection campaigns last year in Alabama, nine face accusations of impeding their successors. Here’s a rundown of those accusations and how (or if) they responded to them.