Balto. Co., state compromise on jail Agreement will cut cost of addition by $11 million

October 26, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

The planned addition to the Baltimore County Detention Center will cost nearly $11 million less than originally planned, which will halve the county's contribution to the project.

The reduced cost, down from $27 million to $16 million, resulted from a compromise between the county and state on the size of the addition.

County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen yesterday said the state is to provide its share of the cost as part of the 1991 capital $$ budget.

The county was to have provided $10 million of the original price, but now its share will be less than $5 million, county Administrative Officer Frank C. Robey said.

The fight over the size of the new building resulted when the state insisted last fall that the planned 216-cell addition be completely double-celled -- two inmates to a cell. The county said that was too many people for the kitchen, sanitary and recreational facilities available. The compromise calls for a 100-cell, 200-bed addition.

Before Rasmussen delivered the news about the compromise, his Republican challenger and the GOP nominee for sheriff blasted the current administration for dragging its feet on solving the county's jail's overcrowding problem.

GOP sheriff candidate Norman Pepersack said at a joint news conference with Republican county executive candidate Roger B. Hayden that 60 to 80 more cells at the main detention center on Kenilworth Drive in Towson could and should be double-celled.

The challengers also said that the county should be planning now for a new detention center to be located elsewhere because the 200-bed addition "will be full the day it opens."

Pepersack, who is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Sheriff J. Edward "Ned" Malone, decried the county's current practice of holding the overflow of prisoners in police precinct lockups.

Hayden charged that Rasmussen has taken far too long to find a location and build a proposed 100-bed detention center for drunken drivers, which the county got state money nearly two years ago.

Pepersack also charged that five trailers the county has ordered to house more minimum-security prisoners on the grounds of the two old county jails on Bosley Avenue aren't designed for that purpose and won't be secure.

Rasmussen and Robey denounced all the charges as untrue and uninformed.

Undersheriff Mark Levine said that 90 cells in the detention center are double-celled now. No more can be double-celled without violating state standards on space for eating, recreation and medical care. Robey said inmates now get only one hour of recreation per week, when the standard in most prisons is one hour per day.

Rasmussen said he hasn't yet been able to find a location for the DWI facility because of community opposition.

He is also awaiting the outcome of state-level discussions about forcing local jails to take inmates sentenced to terms longer than 18 months. If that happens, Rasmussen said, it would force changes in county plans because many more state prisoners would have to be housed in local jails, which now hold those sentenced to terms of up to 18 months.

Robey said that next spring the county plans to hire a consultant to study the need for and location of a new detention center. Robey said that such a new center would be designed to eliminate the need for using the two old county jails, both located in Towson, as work-release centers.

Five new trailers, custom designed for use as minimum security units, are to be located next to the original 1858 county jail on Bosley Avenue in December, Robey said. These trailers will provide 76 beds and will allow more prisoners awaiting trial in lockups to be transferred to the main detention center.

Rasmussen characterized Republican charges that the county has dragged its feet on the jail addition as "absolutely untrue. They're suggesting we do things we're already doing."

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