Court's deadline on jails nears for Balto. Co.

January 28, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Baltimore County planned to start housing its overflow of jail prisoners on cots in the detention center gymnasium today, as a federal court deadline for emptying police station lockups approaches.The lockups held 141 people today, a record number and at least double their center's capacity.

Officials are scrambling to meet a Friday deadline that was imposed as a result of an American Civil Liberties Union class-action suit. It alleged that county prisoners were sometimes held for weeks in dirty, overcrowded lockups without proper sanitary facilities or medical attention because the county jail had no room.

After Friday, the county will not be allowed to keep prisoners in police lockups for longer than 48 hours while they await bail-review hearings.

Five modular trailers are to be delivered this week to handle those being transferred from the county lockups, but for now they will be moved in groups of about 20 a day to the detention center gym.

Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack said he cannot afford to wait until the deadline to take 70 or 80 prisoners on one day.

"I just can't handle that," Pepersack said. "I have to do what I have to do. The time for making hard choices is here."

He said he is searching out every nook and cranny in the jail to house the prisoners. He is also asking for 33 new corrections guards and officers in his budget for next year.

A county study has concluded that without them, his corrections force approaches a "high risk," though not an emergency, situation, he said.

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