State expects to gain more police, prisons

August 26, 1994|By Nelson Schwartz | Nelson Schwartz,Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON -- Maryland and Baltimore officials predict the crime bill could help local police departments hire up to 2,000 new officers and pay for more prisons to house the state's rising tide of inmates.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who has met with legislators in Washington in recent months to urge passage of the $30.2 billion bill, said that Baltimore could see new federal aid next year for drug treatment programs and recreational projects for young people as well as money for more police officers.

"It's a good, balanced package," he said before its passage. ". . . we should start receiving money by early spring."

Under the law's provisions, Maryland could receive roughly $100 million for prison construction, along with money for 2,000 new police officers and increased police overtime. State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said the bill could make it possible to build at least one new prison.

Estimates vary, but officials on Capitol Hill said Maryland also could receive:

* $8.8 million in block grants to cities and towns for after-school programs and police partnerships with children.

* $2.5 million in new money for crime-fighting in rural areas.

* At least $21 million in aid for victims of domestic violence.

The bill also could provide drug treatment for 5,900 Maryland prisoners over the next six years.

The state also could apply for additional funding from a $1 billion program that would expand drug treatment and testing.

Mr. Curran said Maryland needs the federal money provided for in the legislation because of its growing inmate population.

When he took office eight years ago, Mr. Curran said, the state's prisons held roughly 12,000 inmates. Now they hold 20,000.

"And if you hire more police, you might see even more potential prisoners," he said. "Everything in the criminal justice system is working to produce a thousand more each year."

Support for crime prevention among young people is "desperately needed," said Juvenile Services Secretary Mary Ann Saar. "State and local funds are stretched beyond belief by federal mandates.

"We are grateful for anything we can get."

Many of the crime-prevention programs in the bill were criticized by congressional Republicans as wasteful and ineffective. But state and city officials say they strongly support these initiatives.

"Money for prevention is not pork," Ms. Saar said. "We'd rather put our resources into prevention than intervention. . . . Otherwise, we'll just be building more and bigger prisons."

Said Mr. Curran, "The information that we have is that it works," referring to the bill's provisions for recreation projects like midnight basketball, and boys and girls clubs. Evening recreation programs "are guided by adults, many times by police representatives, and it's a whole new environment rather than involvement with the street for these kids. . . . The police say it works."

Lynne A. Battaglia, U.S. attorney for Maryland, said, "We have to keep our kids off the street and in academic and recreational programs that provide for an alternative to youth violence."

The bill's provisions for more drug treatment won praise from Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms. "I'm relying on state and federal opportunities to expand drug treatment as a way of reducing caseload," he said.

"It could help us to be more effective and efficient if we could divert those cases to drug treatment or put them in a treatment program in jail," Mr. Simms said.

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