Past chairman of jail advisory groups urges separate facility for work-release

April 25, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The former chairman of two jail advisory groups is recommending that Anne Arundel County build a separate minimum-security facility for inmates on work-release as part of a new community corrections division.

In a letter last week to County Executive Robert R. Neall and selected County Council members, Nicholas L. Demos said the county may be "crippled" in its struggle to provide adequate jail space by trying to organize all corrections options around a detention center -- "something like trying to run all health services through a hospital."

Instead, he suggested that the county create a Department of Corrections and split it between two divisions.

One division would run a detention center for those people needing round-the-clock supervision. The other, a community corrections division, would run a work-release center, perhaps a prerelease center and other programs for inmates who do not pose a grave threat to themselves or the community.

A dormitory for sentenced criminals who would be there only when not at work costs less to build than a higher-security jail, Mr. Demos stated.

Price tags for the 650-bed jail Mr. Neall wants to build have ranged from $60 million to twice that. A work-release center could be built for under $10 million.

"We do need a live-in and work-out facility. We need it desperately," said lawyer Gill Cochran, who is working on a proposal for a work-release project focusing on persons convicted of driving while intoxicated.

Mr. Cochran's team is hoping to pitch a program to the county later this year. Under it, those sentenced would live at a jail, work in the community -- probably keeping their jobs -- and spend evenings and weekends in health and education programs.

Prince George's and Calvert counties have DWI facilities, but Mr. Cochran said one for Anne Arundel County need not be a freestanding minimum-security jail.

Mr. Cochran said he handled about 230 driving-while-intoxicated defendants last year.

The county Detention Center's population of about 630 is roughly 22 percent work-release, 31 percent other minimum-security, 22 percent medium-security, 19 percent maximum-security and 7 percent not classified, said Richard Baker, jail superintendent.

Roughly half of the inmates are awaiting trial on anything from a misdemeanor to murder. Anyone sentenced to more than 18 months automatically serves the time in the state prison system.

Mr. Neall has not responded to Mr. Demos' letter but will give the ideas consideration, said Louise Hayman of the county executive's office.

Council Chairman David G. Boschert said, "Until I get all sides of the issue, I have to reserve comment."

Mr. Baker would not comment on Mr. Demos' letter, saying it was not written to him.

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