Jail inmates stage hunger strike Baltimore County prisoners protest cell overcrowding.

November 14, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Some inmates at the badly overcrowded Baltimore County Detention Center are refusing their food in protest over conditions at the Towson lockup.

The protest began yesterday when 45 inmates refused their lunch, according to county sheriff's spokesman Jerome Kelly. They have not eaten since, he said.

The protesters were joined today by 49 inmates in another part of the 9-year-old jail.

Kelly said the jail today holds 580 people, a record. It was designed to hold 326. During the 1992 session, the Maryland General Assembly is expected to approve money to build a 216-bed addition, but completion will take until 1994.

The detention center is organized into separate, secured pods of 20 cells each, and each pod has its own dining area and open walking space. Each pod was designed to hold 20 people, one to a cell.

But three inmates are now forced to sleep in each cell -- two on bunk beds and one on the floor, said Kelly.

The protest began in pod 4A and spread to pod 3F. Today two inmates in pod 4E said they have joined.

Al Smith, 39, and Kevin Parker, 28, both inmates awaiting trial, said the protest was sparked by conditions related to the overcrowding.

Parker, whose trial is scheduled Dec. 9, said he was refused permission to see a dentist for one week until his jaw was too swollen to treat. He said he called his grandmother, who pressured jail officials. He was taken to a dentist yesterday and given medication to reduce the swelling and the pain, Parker said.

Kelly stressed that there has been no hint of violence, and that the prisoners remain orderly and are discussing their complaints with Administrator James Dean.

Severe overcrowding at the detention center began in January. The county complied with a court order to stop detaining prisoners in police station lockups, which had become, in effect, an auxiliary jail.

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