New Jail in Arundel

March 19, 1992

Today, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee begins mulling over the proposal to allocate $1.25 million in design funds for a badly needed jail in Anne Arundel County. The prognosis is not good, however.

The Anne Arundel County Council voted 5-2 against the site Monday night. The county's Senate delegation is evenly split on the issue. This is partly because County Executive Robert R. Neall didn't brief residents and local politicos on his jail plans.

We hope that this legislative hearing shifts the focus of debate back to where it should be -- on the need for a new lockup. The county's existing Annapolis jail is perpetually overburdened. Population has doubled in the past four years. A planned expansion would take capacity from 559 to 750 beds -- but the jail already has nearly that number of inmates now! By the year 2005, the county's needs are expected to swell to 1,449 beds.

This overcrowded condition poses potential legal hazards. Similar overcrowding in Baltimore City, and more recently in Prince George's and Dorchester counties, led to suits being filed in U.S. District Court.

Much has been said about Mr. Neall's inept handling of this issue. The proposed North County site has been hotly disputed. But finding a site should not obscure the very real problem of inadequate space in Anne Arundel's jails. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee should approve the bond bill that would provide the design money for this project, contingent on the selection of a location. For their part, the county executive and the county council should come to a quick agreement. Public safety is too important to be blindsided by political infighting.

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