Jail study called 'seriously flawed'

April 09, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The study that recommended that Anne Arundel County build a new $100 million jail to house a booming inmate population was "seriously flawed" and the county needs a new study, not a new jail, a former state corrections administrator has charged.

The 1990 report, done by Carter Goble Associates Inc., projected the county would need beds for 1,449 inmates by the year 2005. But the consultant failed to take into account what fueled the inmate explosion: a 1986 change in state law, William E. Lamb Jr., who has worked on Maryland state and local corrections planning, charged yesterday.

While the law caused a large "blip" in the inmate population, he said, the growth will not continue at the same rate, but will level off. By not taking that into account, Mr. Lamb contends, the consultant projected a rate of growth much larger than what is likely.

The General Assembly mandated that counties keep in their local jails inmates serving short sentences. The change was phased in starting in 1987, when convicts sentenced to at least six months had to be kept locally. By 1989, the sentence was 12 months and a day. In practice, it has became 18 months, though there are exceptions.

In 1984, the county averaged 233 inmates a day; in 1986, 279. But in 1989, that had jumped to 459, Mr. Lamb said.

"They did not take into account . . . the law that was responsible for the growth in the detention center population. The consultant's report just absolutely ignored it. Based on this, we have [planned] a $90 million jail that just isn't needed," Mr. Lamb said.

Officers of Carter Goble did not return a phone call for comment.

"I believe a jail is needed," said Richard J. Baker, superintendent of the existing 600-bed jail, which is at capacity.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, the average daily jail population so far is 630, Mr. Baker said -- close to the 644 projected by the consultant. Mr. Lamb dismissed that as "pure chance."

The consultant's report did not explain why it expected the jail population to grow at a rate of approximately 10 percent a year while the county's population would grow at about 1 percent a year.

"The projections are poor. They were not well done," said Nicholas Demos, chairman of the county's Detention Center / Alternative Sentencing Task Force.

However, he said, "a new jail is needed. It's obsolete." The existing jail is 26 years old.

Mr. Lamb gave his 23-page analysis to County Council members during their Wednesday night meeting.

The need for a larger jail has been debated since Mr. Neall sought state financing for a facility on New Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie in January 1992. However, the state Senate rejected the request after the County Council refused to support the site in the wake of residents' opposition.

The Ordinance Road site later was found to be contaminated by radioactive waste left there when it was part of an Army depot. Mr. Neall has pressed forward with looking at further expansion of the Jennifer Road jail site.

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