WESTMINSTER — Unless crime drops, the Carroll County Detention Center will be overcrowded until a new 80-bed addition is finished, Sheriff John Brown told the county commissioners Thursday.
In a quarterly briefing with the commissioners, Brown said there have been nights in recent weeks when inmates have had to sleep on cots in the hallways.
"We have exceeded capacity, and we don't want to get into troublewith the state corrections department," Brown said. "We need (the new addition) as soon as possible, or we'll all be in trouble."
Brown said the proposed addition should be constructed as quickly as possible because county crime is on the increase, and the jail has been operating at close to capacity since the beginning of the year.
Thedepartment was lulled into thinking that there wouldn't be overcrowding at the jail because the number of inmates during November and December was running at about 65 inmates -- about half of capacity.
"But with the worsening of the economy, we have seen the expected risein crime," Brown said.
Although the jail has 120 beds, the configuration does not allow the Sheriff's Department to house 120 inmates,Brown said. The jail has 12 beds in the female wing and six beds in the segregation unit.
If the general inmate population exceeds itscapacity, Brown said he can't put male inmates in the female wing and general population inmates in the segregation wing.
Historically, the population has averaged about 100 inmates, Brown said, but in recent weeks the population has pushed the limits of the jail capacity. For example, this past week the population reached as high as 117 inmates, requiring several of them to sleep in cots. Brown said the overcrowding creates "control problems."
Steven D. Powell, director of the county Department of Management and Budget, said the addition was receiving the necessary approvals and a groundbreaking was scheduled for July 1. He said the addition should be completed between 10 and 12 months after groundbreaking.
Brown and Chief Deputy Charles F. Fowler said they have been talking to various companies about home-detention systems, which would also alleviate the overcrowding problem at the jail.
A home-detention system allows inmates -- who qualify -- to either serve their sentences or await trial at home. They wear bracelets with electronic monitors. Corrections officials periodically call their houses, and the inmates must respond.
If the inmates don't respond, they can lose their home-detention privileges and be reincarcerated. About 60 percent of current inmates would be eligible for the home-detention program.
The sheriff has not chosen a system yet, but has reviewed several.
"We are looking for the most reliable at the cheapest cost," said Brown.
Brown also said that the home-detention system could be self-supporting. Each inmate will have to pay between $10 and $15 a day to be on the system.
"Once itis set up, we can cut down the needs for housing and feeding," Brownsaid. "If they get sick at the jail, we are obligated to provide medical services. But if they get sick at home, it is their problem. I can't make the jail self-supporting, but I am trying to make it as close to that as possible."