Detention center will house more inmates, offer more programs

June 21, 1994|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Sun Staff Writer

After the recent completion of $7.5 million in construction to the county detention center, space is now available to accommodate more inmates and expand inmate programs, including a well-stocked library and resource center.

Inmates will not move into the three new cell blocks and four dormitories -- with freshly painted cream-colored walls, brown cell doors and peach and gray metal tables and bed frames -- until mid-August, as jail officials link the electronic cell doors to the control center.

County and state money was used to pay for two recreational areas, a meeting room, multi-purpose center, staff dining area and administrative offices for the detention center at 7501 Waterloo Road in Jessup.

Not only has the expansion more than tripled the inmate capacity, from 108 to 361, at the 11-year-old facility, but space is now available to expand various inmate programs, said James N. Rollins, director of the jail. There is now space for a library and resource center as well as expanded GED and substance abuse programs.

"The expansion allowed for cells and beds and gave the institution what it has been lacking in a long while -- program space," Mr. Rollins said.

"The public is tired of crime, and we have a mandate at the corrections department to send inmates back to the community who are better prepared than when they came to jail."

A new 28-day substance abuse program, scheduled to begin in October, will accommodate both sentenced and pre-release inmates. The program will employ six more workers and be operated only at night and on weekends by the county's health department.

The jail's GED program is currently staffed by a Howard Community College instructor, and between five and seven inmates seek their high school diplomas through the program twice a year. Mr. Rollins said he envisions an increase in the number of GED classes for male and female inmates.

The new library and resource center will replace a cart loaded with books and wheeled around the jail once a week for inmates to choose their reading materials.

The jail received a federal grant in 1991 to create a library that emphasizes job finding resources and resume writing. It now has the space to accommodate the service.

Glennor Shirley, a librarian at the Howard County Central Library in Columbia, was hired to implement the grant. She works once a week at the Columbia library and four days at the jail.

Inmates are given one hour a week in the library, which is open four days a week. One of those days is allotted for law and legal research.

"These are people who are going back into the community. If I provide them with information, I may improve their chance of having a better life," Ms. Shirley said.

She said the resources in the jail's library focus on promoting life-long learning as well as materials about careers and legal matters. Inmates will also find literature about self-esteem, problem resolution, relationships and multi-cultural issues, she said.

Although the average stay at the jail is three months and the maximum stay 18 months, Mr. Rollins said the detention center has a mission. He said an inmate who loses interest in crime may do so because he or she is introduced to job enhancement skills and the library.

"During an inmate's normal lifestyle, he wouldn't go into a library, but we are here to improve [his] opportunities and lead [him] to a better lifestyle," Mr. Rollins said. "The expansion was built with some vision."

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