Sauerbrey attacks Glendening's record on crime CAMPAIGN 1994

October 14, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey delivered a blistering attack on Democrat Parris N. Glendening yesterday for his record on crime in his home county.

At a news conference, Mrs. Sauerbrey reeled off statistics showing that murder, rape, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes have increased sharply in Prince George's County during Mr. Glendening's tenure as county executive.

"Parris Glendening's record on crime is nothing to brag about," she said. "Prince George's under his governance is a pretty scary place."

The Glendening camp did not dispute the figures, which were routinely cited by his challengers in last month's Democratic primary as well. A spokesman said the figures reflected the kinds of crime increasingly found in troubled urban areas. He suggested the problem would be far worse had Mr. Glendening not increased the size of the police force, implemented community policing, and taken other measures.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, meanwhile, fielded questions about her own proposal to effectively freeze spending on prisons next year.

She said she intends to spend only about 1 percent more on public safety next year than now is being spent -- a $6 million increase that would be used to cover the cost of opening the new central booking facility in Baltimore.

Beyond that, said her budget adviser, Thomas W. Schmidt, "The rest of the [corrections] budget will have to live within what they have now."

When more inmates arrive, he said, guards will just have to watch more people. When there is no more room to double-cell inmates, then they may have to be put into gymnasiums, prison basements or any other space available, he said.

Budget analysts for both the legislature and Gov. William Donald Schaefer said Maryland's prison problems will cost much more than Mrs. Sauerbrey estimates and cannot be dismissed so easily.

Maryland already has 20,800 inmates living in quarters designed for about 13,300, and it is ranked the seventh-most crowded prison system in the nation. The population has been increasing at a rate of about 3 percent per year, and a series of new "get-tough" laws passed this year are expected to push that figure sharply higher.

The General Assembly's Department of Fiscal Services has estimated that the state's nearly $600 million public safety budget will have to grow by at least $60 million next year to cover the cost of new prisons that are opening and the expected increase in the number of inmates.

The cost of opening the new booking facility alone, analysts say, will be closer to $10 million -- $4 million more than Mrs. Sauerbrey is budgeting.

At her news conference, Mrs. Sauerbrey insisted her budget plan would work and said she would shift funds to public safety from otheragencies if necessary.

"Priorities for spending is what the issue really rests on," she said. "Public safety is and will continue to be my No. 1 priority."

Mrs. Sauerbrey has proposed freezing all departmental budgets current year levels to help pay for the first installment of a 24 percent tax cut she has promised to deliver.

After the first year, she said, she would pay for future prison costs by making unspecified "structural changes in programs that need to be changed," such as Medicaid and other entitlement programs for the poor. She also said she would consolidate government programs and make them more efficient.

New laws passed by the legislature this year will add to the inmate population and overall prison costs, said public safety spokesman Leonard A. Sipes Jr. They include laws to send more juvenile criminals to adult prisons, to require inmates to serve at least half their sentences and to incarcerate two-time violent offenders for at least 10 years.

It costs roughly $17,000 a year to house a prison inmate, and the cost of building new prison space is $70,000 per bed.

bTC Mr. Sipes said the opportunity for additional double-celling has already been used up. "We already have beds in gyms," he said. "Whatever could [legally] be double-celled has been double-celled."

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