Solving the Corndog Conundrum

March 3, 2009 – 17:03:19
The financial solution to the Corndog Conundrum seems simple, but proposed state legislation has yet to address it.

In his six years in office, Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett has pocketed $316,000 in surplus money over the $1.75 per day, per inmate the state allocates. His creative profit maximizers included, according to inmates who testified, feeding inmates three meals a day of corndogs. (According to a suspect but humorous account, the breakfast menu was sausage and pancake on a stick. Lunch was corndogs. Dinner was pigs-in-a-blanket.)

The benefit to the state of the existing system is that it maximizes the incentive for Bartlett and 54 other sheriffs in the state to keep food expenses low, thus avoiding county expenditures on the meals. The downside is that profit-motivated sheriffs are also the inmates’ custodians, creating a nasty conflict of interest and inhumane conditions.

If counties bid the jail-food contract out to a commercial food vendor, stipulating any amount above $1.75 is profit, the benefits of the existing system are maintained. The sheriff’s role as inmate custodian would continue, without the incentive to abdicate his role. Counties might have to permit a higher profit margin for bidders (e.g., anything over $1 is profit), but they also could eliminate jail personnel previously involved in food preparation.

The political solution, of course, is simpler yet. Vote out the sheriffs who abused the system.

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