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This Alabama Jail Released Its Inmates Because It Ran Out of Food

Fairfield mayor Kenneth Coachman supported the move, telling WVTM13 that the building had an issue with leaks and adding, “We really have to let them go … Because we cannot house them.”

by Hilary Pollack
May 15 2015, 8:00pm

Say that you were responsible for a small assortment of incarcerated ne'er-do-wells, well-intentioned but law-breaking folk who had, maybe, gotten a few DUIs in a row, or stuffed their pants with hams at a local supermarket. Sure, they're going to be locked up—no one said it was fun to be lolling around a small, barren concrete cell for hours or days on end—but it's your duty to make sure that they have the resources to eat (however crappy the food), sleep, and use the john.

But what would you do if you ran out of food and had a posse of hangry prisoners on your hands?

If you're in charge of Fairfield City Jail in Alabama, you might just decide to throw your hands up and let the hoodlums go. If you can't feed 'em, release 'em.

On April 16 of last month, police chief Leon Davis released "three or four" nonviolent inmates and the jail sat empty for a week after the facility wasn't able to obtain funds to provide meals. But hey, wise guy—that doesn't mean that the local police force wasn't out arresting people regardless. "Let me be clear: If we need to arrest you, we will arrest you," Davis told AL.com. "It's not a free day for criminals in Fairfield."

Although Davis requested only $500 from city officials in order to keep the bologna sandwiches coming, he was unable to get the check signed in time to meet the needs of the incarcerated … so he let them go and kept cells vacant. After all, even lawbreakers deserve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Fairfield mayor Kenneth Coachman supported the move, telling WVTM13 that the building had an issue with leaks and adding, "We really have to let them go … Because we cannot house them." And hey, they were all misdemeanors. C'mon—we're not talking murderers here. Trespassers, disorderly conductors, and the like were arrested but then released on bond. Any felons booked weren't as lucky, and still got booted over to Jefferson County Jail.

"If you mess up, we're going to get you," Davis warned. "And once I get food, we'll be back in business as usual."

Both Davis and Coachman pointed fingers at local council president Darnell Gardner, who hadn't signed the check prepared by Coachman and other city officials for the jail. And at a weekly council meeting, councilwoman Gloria Matthews suggested buying meals from Walmart to cover for the jail until a longer-term solution could be arranged.

But on April 22, the jail was up and running again after an anonymous donor covered for the missing funds. Thanks, donor. An official at the jail confirmed to MUNCHIES today that the issue has been resolved.

Fairfield City Jail isn't the first facility to have to resort to creative means in order to keep inmates fed. At the beginning of the year, Mississippi lawmakers introduced a bill that would aim to feed prisoners using donated deer meat from hunters, while another bill suggested having prisoners sleep in tents and eat the packaged MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) designed for military situations.

But no one ever said that you should visit jail just for the food.

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