WESTMINSTER — Detention Center prisoners could occupy the underground garage at the courthouse annex or take over the county's maintenance center.
Could, that is, under a county contingency plan that would be put intoeffect should the Detention Center on North Court Street be rendereduninhabitable by fire, an explosion, a natural disaster or other reason.
"We'll probably never have to use this, at least I hope we don't," said Carroll County Sheriff John H. Brown. "Do you know what the chances are of that happening?"
The state corrections code mandates that law enforcement officials have an alternative housing plan for prisoners should something happen at the Detention Center.
"In the event of a natural or other disaster, you need to have really two contingency plans -- one for short-term confinement and one for long-term confinement," said Lt. John W. Stultz, an administrative aide to Brown.
Brown's department has two plans, either of which could be implemented, depending on the length of time prisoners would need to beout of the Detention Center.
"We've got it lined up to use the under ground garage at the court house annex building for short duration confinement. It's a nice, tight facility," Brown said.
"Maybe ifthere was a fire and we had to get the prisoners out for a couple ofhours till we got the smoke out, or something like that, we'd take them over there."
However, if the prisoners had to be kept elsewhere for more than a day, officials plan to take them by bus to the county's fenced-in maintenance center on Meadow Branch Road.
"The maintenance facility is the most secure place we have," Stultz noted. He said the Detention Center also has an agreement with a local bus company for the transport of the inmates.
Brown said Westminster City Police and state troopers would be
called in to help take the prisoners to Meadow Branch Road.
The Detention Center houses a maximumof 120 prisoners.
"We're usually staying at maximum or close to it," Brown said. By next summer, an addition will be completed to house an extra 80 inmates, he said.
John T. "Jack" Sterling, head of public works, said that while he had no objection to the sheriff's plan, he would suggest other buildings as possible holding areas.
"(Housing prisoners at the maintenance center) would be an inconveniencefor us, but we could handle it if needed," Sterling said.
Other counties close to Carroll also have contingency plans.
Lt. Barry Stanton, acting corrections chief for Frederick County, said his department has agreements with surrounding counties, including Carroll, foremergency evacuations.
But Maj. Jack Hinton, Carroll County Detention Center warden, noted that Frederick officials would first have to be contacted to make sure they had enough space to house any extra prisoners.
The Howard County Detention Center in Jessup has a listof six other facilities in the Jessup area where prisoners could be housed in an emergency, said James N. Rollins, that county's directorof corrections.
"We contacted them to let them know what we wanted and to provide an agreement," Rollins said. "Most correctional institutions do the same thing."
What are the chances of a disaster happening?
"In my 23 years in corrections, I've never seen the plan implemented," Rollins said. "But it's just something that state corrections requires you to have."