Joint team to oversee Md. takeover of City Jail

January 24, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

A joint state-city transition team, composed of aides to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, will oversee the state's proposed takeover of the Baltimore City Jail.

"It is a good deal, it is a great deal for the city," Mayor Schmoke said yesterday of the takeover proposal, which Governor Schaefer included as a surprise in his State of the State address Friday.

The mayor, who has said the city is being crushed under the burgeoning cost of running the state-mandated criminal justice system, has called for state takeover of the City Jail, the Baltimore state's attorney's office and the Baltimore Circuit Court.

The city will spend almost $40 million to run the jail this year, up from about $23 million four years ago.

In exchange for the jail takeover, the governor proposes to stop sending the city money under the so-called police aid formula, which this year will funnel $38 million to the Baltimore Police Department.

The swap is a good deal for the city, the mayor said, because the city can more easily control spending in the police department than it can for the jail, which often must build more bed space to comply with court orders to control overcrowding.

Mr. Schmoke said he believes the state can run the jail more efficiently than the city because the state already is responsible for several other correctional facilities, including the nearby Maryland Penitentiary, and

can economize on food, heating, equipment, training and other costs.

"I am convinced as I have always been that the state can operate that facility in a more cost-effective way as one element in a six-element corrections facility," the mayor said.

Mr. Schmoke also said he did not believe state takeover of the jail and its soaring operating costs would make it easier for legislators from Maryland's wealthy counties to oppose the Linowes commission tax reform designed to help the state's poorer subdivisions.

The transfer, which is scheduled to take place July 1, still must be approved by the General Assembly.

The transition team will address legal responsibilities, personnel matters, costs, staff training and programs for inmates, as well as how the jail would comply with a federal consent decree on overcrowding.

The transition team will be chaired by Bishop L. Robinson, the governor's secretary of public safety and correctional services and former city police chief.

Other state members are Charles L. Benton, the Maryland secretary of budget and fiscal planning, and Mary Ann Saar, director of the governor's Office of Operations and Public Safety.

Both Mr. Benton and Ms. Saar served in positions similar to the ones they hold with the state under then-Mayor Schaefer.

The city delegation to the transition team includes Barbara A. Bostick, the jail commissioner, Frank Derr, an assistant city solicitor, and Richard Maine, the mayor's senior adviser on legislative matters.

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