Dell says he'll seek to restore jail funds Money cut from budget would go for 3 guards

November 05, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Sheriff John H. Brown, who has threatened to house inmates in tents and to limit the number of prisoners on work-release at the county's crowded jail, might soon get the help he has sought from county and judicial officials.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell promised yesterday that he would work to restore money that would pay for hiring and training three jail guards. The funds were cut from the sheriff's budget three weeks ago.

Dell's pledge came after jail Warden Mason Waters, Dell and Raymond E. Beck Sr., the county Circuit Court administrative judge, held an early morning meeting.

Dell said he is optimistic that Commissioners Richard T. Yates and W. Benjamin Brown will join him in quickly restoring about $90,000 for new jail guards.

Yates and Brown are in New York for the rest of the week, meeting with bond-rating firms, and could not be reached for comment.

Dell said the money to hire and train correctional officers for a proposed 100-bed addition to the county detention center was awarded in May. But the money was pulled back by the commissioners when construction of the jail addition was delayed.

The sheriff oversees the detention center, which was built to house 124 inmates. The jail population reached 171 Monday, not including 28 inmates who were free on pretrial release, he said.

"What am I to do if all of those prisoners are suddenly ordered back to jail for violating conditions of their pretrial release?" Brown asked.

"There's no question the sheriff has problems, and we're trying to work with him," Dell said. "The County Commissioners have quarterly meetings scheduled with the sheriff, and I believe the last three times we were to meet he called to say he had nothing to discuss."

Beck said he left yesterday's meeting with a better understanding of the crowding and personnel problems at the jail.

Beck said he and Judges Francis M. Arnold and Luke K. Burns Jr. were concerned about limits the sheriff has placed on the number of prisoners allowed into the jail's work-release program.

Brown wrote to Beck two weeks ago saying he had limited to 59 the number of inmates allowed on work-release because he did not have enough guards to conduct strip searches when the prisoners return each evening to the detention center.

"Some of the inmates were sentenced with work-release being an integral part of the plea negotiations," Beck said. "So far, we haven't had any [inmates] coming back to complain they were pulled off work-release."

Beck also noted that some inmates on work-release are in jail on civil contempt charges for failing to pay child support.

"They have to pay to get out of jail, and if they can't have work-release, it will affect their paying support," Beck said.

Brown said yesterday that his limit of 59 was meant to be temporary.

"We have one cell block being repaired and not available for use for a week or so," he said. "That was damaged when they [inmates] took metal from one of the bunks and tried to chisel through a wall in the showers."

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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