Similarly, grand juries in Orange and Los Angeles counties are investigating whether the sheriffs of those counties misused their IWF’s. And in Sacramento County, prisoner advocates claim that the sheriff’s department has inappropriately diverted more than one million dollars from the IWF there to pay for construction costs and such items as security cameras.
Significantly, IWF money is derived from profits generated by selling writing materials, hygiene products, food and other canteen items to the prisoners housed in the jail, as well as from proceeds from collect phone calls made by those prisoners -- but not from taxpayer-funded sources.
The possibility of lawsuits notwithstanding, the alleged misdirection of IWF’ s by local law enforcement agencies is likely to continue because the statute which provides for the existence of those funds is vaguely worded, leaving room for a range of interpretations sufficiently broad that the outcome of a lawsuit is never a foregone conclusion.
In tough economic times then, programs intended to increase public safety by rehabilitating prisoners (or otherwise helping them to transition back into society) may fall prey to creative bookkeeping as sheriffs, willing to chance being sued, seize upon statutory ambiguity in an effort to balance their budgets.
Source: Sacramento Bee
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