Hayden jail plan has council support 4 members say they won't object

January 25, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Council appears likely to go along with County Executive Roger B. Hayden's plan to take back control of the county's jail system from his fellow Republican, Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr.

Four of the seven council members said they have no objection to the plan, and two of those four said they favor it. The other two, Towson councilman Douglas B. Riley, R-4th, and Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, said they're keeping an open mind but leaning Mr. Hayden's way.

A fifth member, Catonsville's Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, said she might object to the executive's plan if the basis for it is a private medical services contract at the jail that came under sharp criticism last week from county auditors.

A bill that would give the executive power to run the jail system is to be introduced at the council's Feb. 16 meeting and will likely be voted on in March.

Sheriff Pepersack said he is doing research and planning to lobby the council to keep control of the jail. He said he is not angry at Mr. Hayden for trying to take his major responsibility away, despite having run as the executive's Republican ticket mate in the 1990 election.

Mr. Ruppersberger and Mr. Riley both said they want to hear from Sheriff Pepersack before deciding the issue. But both said they generally agree with Mr. Hayden that the county should control what is done with county money. The 900-inmate jail system represents a $10.3 million expense this year.

"I don't think it will run into a great deal of trouble," Mr. Riley said of Mr. Hayden's bill. Mr. Ruppersberger said the county is the only large, urbanized jurisdiction in Maryland that doesn't control its own detention system.

The theme of local control of local dollars is popular among county officials in Maryland as they struggle to to cut spending in the face of permanent reductions in state aid. With county officials predicting hundreds of layoffs next month, Mr. Hayden is determined to get control of the jail system, which, he said, represents the county's sixth-largest expense.

With a 216-bed addition to the main detention center on Kenilworth Drive in Towson now under construction, that expense is only going to grow, he said. The county jail system consists of the main detention center and the old county jail complex nearby on Bosley Avenue at Towsontown Boulevard, where female and work release inmates and home monitoring programs are housed.

Councilmen Vincent Gardina, D-5th, and Melvin Mintz, D-2nd, both said they favor the county taking control of the jail facilities back from the independently elected sheriff. The county transferred control of the facility to the sheriff's office in 1979.

Mr. Gardina said he supports the bill. "We need to have executive control of dollars spent," he said.

Mr. Mintz said he also supports the move, but for different reasons. "It's just too much to expect the sheriff to run the detention center, the medical care program and be sheriff at the same time," Mr. Mintz said.

He and Mrs. Manley suggested that Mr. Hayden's proposal may be linked to the council's audit criticizing the jail's private medical contractor for lax control of drugs and failing to give inmates examinations on time. Mr. Hayden said that played no part in his decision.

Both councilmen, who were critical of the contract with Coastal Correctional Health Care Inc. when it was awarded last summer, suggested that the contract be taken away and put out for bids again.

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