Baltimore Co. seeks ways to ease jail overcrowding

November 15, 1991|By Roger Twigg Z

A record number of prisoners at the Baltimore County Detention Center has prompted a search for additional cell space at correctional facilities elsewhere in the state, officials said yesterday.

County Administrator Merreen E. Kelly said 575 inmates are being housed in the jail, which was designed for a capacity of 320.

The overcrowding has forced jail officials to "triple bunk" many inmates, some of whom staged hunger strikes this week to protest unsanitary conditions and medical care, said Jerry Kelly, a detention center spokesman.

"I can understand the conditions they are protesting," the county administrator said. "I don't know what their motivation might be except to bring it to the attention of the criminal justice system."

The head nurse at the detention center left recently, and two other medical personnel are on extended medical leave, causing problems in providing medical attention for the inmates, officials said.

The administrator said a meeting of officials from various county, criminal justice and legal agencies came up with several proposals to help alleviate the crisis, including:

* Increasing home detention.

* Expediting the handling of jailed traffic-law violators.

* Encouraging prosecutors and public defenders to explore the increased use of plea bargains.

* Transfers for prisoners wanted on criminal charges by other jurisdictions if they are being held by Baltimore County for minor crimes.

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