Crime is certainly a growth business. The result is an...

March 20, 1995

Crime is certainly a growth business. The result is an ever expanding prison population that demands greater commitment of public resources to corrections facilities.

Carroll County is no exception.

The subdivision's 120-bed County Detention Center has been stretched beyond capacity for years. Meanwhile, the three Carroll County commissioners have debated whether to expand the North Court Street facility in Westminster, add a modular cellblock or build a new prison at another location. All to no avail, except for the recent expansion of the low-security work-release unit from 24 beds to 44 beds.

Sheriff John Brown warns that Carroll may soon have to ship inmates to jails in other counties because there is no more room in county facilities. The cost may be $275,000 a year, he told the commissioners.

"We're sitting on a time bomb," he said. "It's a safety and health problem, tensions get high. . . it's like cramming eight people into a closet."

The sheriff and the jail warden favor adding an 80-bed expansion to the existing Westminster facility -- with a solid foundation under it to house a second floor in the future. That would cost an estimated $4 million, with the state expected to pick up half the tab.

The commissioners say they want to respond promptly to the need, and will solicit proposals from companies to build an addition or to add a modular unit at the jail.

A major problem is the crimped budget and shrinking revenues the county faces over the next few years. Infrastructure projects were shelved due to the indecisiveness of the previous board of commissioners. The present three commissioners are considering all manner of tax increases to make up an expected deficit in the next fiscal year. Eight new schools are needed within the next half-dozen years. Competition for the county's capital project dollars will be painful. A major jail addition will likely be the loser.

We have long supported the concept of a jail addition to meet the county's obvious need. It may be most economical in the short-run to house some prisoners outside the county, assuming there is reasonably priced space available elsewhere. Then, the county must move toward building the proper, cost-effective addition. It is long past time to end the interminable political debate and concentrate on a solution.

HTCHD: 'Sitting on a Time Bomb'

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