Debate over jail kicked from council to panel

July 30, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An 11-member committee appointed yesterday will take up an iissue the County Council couldn't handle last spring -- where the county should build a new jail, or even whether it should build one.

The Detention Center/Alternative Sentencing Task Force will look at the county jail population, alternative sentencing methods, possible sites for a new jail considered by a consultant last spring, and the viability of the site he recommended.

The group is due to report its findings by Oct. 15.

But at least two members of the committee are not so sure a jail is needed, and a third says the North County site recommended by the consultant and backed by County Executive Robert R. Neall should be ruled out entirely.

"No one can absolutely tell us what's been there all these years, what's been buried there," said Lola Hand, a committee member and longtime civic activist who is president of the Suburbia Civil Association. "I don't like that site at all."

The site proposed by Mr. Neall, an 85-acre property on New Ordnance Road just south of the Beltway, used to be an Army munitions depot.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, whose Glen Burnie district includes the New Ordnance Road site, said he believes construction of a jail may not be necessary.

"It goes without saying that with this economy, if you can put projects off for eight to 10 years, you don't build them," Mr. Middlebrooks said.

Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, who is out of town and unavailable this week, also has told the council she believes the county should explore alternative sentencing methods over incarceration as a way to cut down the need for a new 650-bed jail.

Mrs. Lamb's district includes the overcrowded 25-year-old jail on Jennifer Road, and she has bitterly contested any attempts to expand that facility beyond current plans.

Councilwoman Diane Evans has also agreed to serve on the committee.

Mr. Neall says a new $87 million jail is needed because the 25-year-old jail on Jennifer Road has a capacity of 400 and already houses 600 inmates.

The number of inmates is expected to reach 1,200 by the year 2000, said Richard J. Baker, detention center superintendent.

But the council refused to authorize money for construction when faced with protests from neighbors concerned about its impact on the environment and their communities.

The committee was proposed by Mr. Neall last May during the annual budget review as a way for the council to be involved in jail debate.

Seven of the group's 11 members are council appointees. The other four have been appointed by the executive.

Along with Ms. Hand and the three council members, the council appointees are: Robert Moore, a police officer who is president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Association of Councils; Russell Turner, a member of the 1987 Citizens Advisory Committee to the Detention Center; and Patrick Welsch, a special agent for the FBI.

Mr. Neall appointed Hardy Rauch, director of standards and accreditation for the American Correctional Association; Nicholas Demos, who chaired an advisory committee that looked at county jail needs in 1986; and Floyd Snowden, an Annapolis minister. The fourth executive appointee has yet to formally accept the post.

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