Administrations at the former Baltimore City Jail have come and gone. But not even the resources of the state of Maryland can keep the number of inmates from increasing beyond the jail's capacity.
A steady increase in arrests during the summer and leading up to the Sept. 12 Democratic primary forced the Baltimore City Detention Center to rely on contingency housing, transfers of inmates to a state prison and paroles to keep the jail population within a court-ordered limit, according to state officials and a lawyer for inmates.
The population at the Detention Center has risen from 2,613 on Aug. 19 to 2,766 as of yesterday. But those figures do not include inmates who have been placed in contingency housing -- overflow housing at the jail that is not supposed to be used on a regular basis -- a figure that reached a high of 176 on Election Day.
A federal court order requires the jail to keep its population under 2,813. To hold to that limit, Detention Center officials have transferred 140 prisoners to the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center since the first week of September under a special agreement with the state prison system. Those inmates have already been sentenced for their crimes and are nearing the end of those prison terms, said LaMont W. Flanagan, the acting commissioner of Pretrial and Detention Services, the agency that oversees the jail.
In addition, Mr. Flanagan said, 39 inmates have been paroled. Mr. Flanagan added that arrests by city police increased significantly this summer, from 4,351 in June to 4,940 in August.
Mr. Flanagan said the Detention Center will continue to transfer inmates to the state's reception center when needed. "We will abide by the federal law and make those adjustments," he said.
In the summer of 1989, crowding at the jail, then operated by the city, reached crisis proportions. New housing was built at the jail and local criminal justice officials moved to expedite trials in a joint effort to reduce crowding. Nevertheless, when pressed, the jail would move some inmates overnight to district lockups to stay under population limits. The state assumed operations at the troubled jail July 1.