Legislator questions Arundel jail plans Maloney doubtful about state aid

April 22, 1993|By John Morris and Andrea F. Siegel | John Morris and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

Maryland legislators may force Anne Arundel County to explore new alternatives to jailing before the state pays for half of what would be among the largest local detention centers in the state.

"The legislature is going to be very reluctant to put 50-50 money toward building a jail with a capacity" that -- as a percentage of the county population -- would be higher than any other jurisdiction in the state, said Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's County Democrat.

Mr. Maloney chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that considers public safety issues.

County Executive Robert R. Neall received a commitment in January 1992 from Gov. William Donald Schaefer for $40 million toward an $80 million jail on New Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie. But the Senate defeated the spending measure after Anne Arundel lawmakers objected to the site.

Mr. Maloney's subcommittee never considered the issue, but Mr. Maloney said he has followed it closely.

"Anne Arundel County definitely needs some additional capacity," Mr. Maloney said. "However, I am concerned about overbuilding."

He said Mr. Neall's proposal would give Anne Arundel County nearly the same size jail as Prince George's County, which has "double the population and three times the crime rate."

Consultants to Anne Arundel County say it will need to house about 1,450 inmates by the year 2010 if current trends continue.

Mr. Maloney expressed concern that the consultants predicted the county's jail population would grow 10 times faster than the general population. Former state corrections administrator William E. Lamb Jr., who did his own evaluation of the consultants' report, raised the same question. Mr. Lamb is the son of County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, an Annapolis Democrat, who opposes enlarging the facility on Jennifer Road.

Ms. Lamb and her son say they are not politically allied. But Ms. Lamb also questioned the numbers in the report and has called for the county to explore more alternatives to incarceration.

The county already is using some alternatives to jail, but Mr. Maloney said, "I think Anne Arundel needs to take a hard look at those issues before the legislature invests a large amount of money in a large jail."

"I think we need a little more progressive thinking," agreed County Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Democrat, whose law practice includes criminal work.

Mr. Neall and jail Superintendent Richard Baker said the county has successful alternative programs, including home detention and expedited trials, but the 26-year-old jail is crowded and obsolete.

Anne Arundel County "is more successful than other jurisdictions at reducing its jail population," Mr. Neall said. But, he said, "You can't make a judge use these alternatives."

The comments came in the wake of a draft report given this week to the county by consultants Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates Inc., who were asked to design as big a jail as possible for the Jennifer Road site. The report says it could accommodate a $60.1 million, two-story jail for about 1,200 people. However, the county would have to look elsewhere to expand later, around the year 2010.

Mr. Neall argued that building at Jennifer Road would only delay the inevitable and said that he would prefer to move the jail to a site with room to expand.

He has to decide what to recommend to the council by April 30, when he unveils his proposed budget for construction of government facilities.

Yesterday, County Council members, who last year passed a resolution asking Mr. Neall to re-examine the Jennifer Road site, had not seen the Crabtree Rohrbaugh draft report.

"I'm going to ask for a public hearing," said Ms. Lamb, whose district includes the Jennifer Road jail site. "I think it's terribly important for the public to see that report and have a chance to comment on that report."

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