Where was Ted? NTC

September 02, 1994

After hearing some of Theodore J. Sophocleus' recent comments on a new minimum-security jail for Anne Arundel County, one has to wonder where this particular Democratic candidate for county executive has been during the last few years of wrangling over this issue.

Mr. Sophocleus questions the need for the jail, saying the issue requires more study. This week he blamed County Executive Robert R. Neall for the fact that the population at the county jail on Jennifer Road, whose official capacity is 600, could top 700 this weekend. Mr. Neall, he said, "sat on it for four years. . . and couldn't decide what he wanted to do."

Mr. Neall might merit criticism for the way he handled the jail issue, but how anyone can accuse him of waffling on this matter is beyond us. There has never been any question about what he wanted to do: build a new jail on New Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie. He's been relentless in pursuit of that goal. Yes, it took two years before the New Ordnance Road plan finally passed muster with the County Council, but that was because the council kept bickering and bouncing this unpopular project from one community to another.

Mr. Sophocleus is not the only politician who contends a new jail is unnecessary if the county can handle prisoners more innovatively. This is just not realistic. Detention officials already extensively use various trial expedition methods and house arrest, saving an average of 146 beds a day. Programs to put child support offenders to work save additional beds. The number of people on home detention -- a decision that's made by a judge, not the county -- is higher on average in Anne Arundel than in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, which have much larger prison populations.

Anne Arundel County does not need to and cannot afford to spend another couple of years studying the jail issue. Two of the executive candidates, Republican John Gary and Democrat Robert Agee, recognize that; a third, Democrat H. Erle Schafer, supports a new jail as long as it includes treatment for substance abuse. Plans for the new jail do include expanded drug and alcohol treatment, but, as Detention Center Superintendent Richard Baker says, "We need to build it to expand it."

We also need a new executive and County Council who understand that.

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