Wanted: 18 tons of ice per week for inmates in Jessup prisons

Correction officials can't keep up with demand

July 11, 1999|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

The classified ad seemed peculiar. Wanted: 36,000 pounds of ice a week. To be delivered to the Maryland House of Correction and its annex.

Party season at the prison?

Maryland's prisons are not air-conditioned, so ice is, well, hot right now as temperatures hit the triple-digits and the 90s.

"Our machines aren't able to keep up with the demand," said Diane Myers, procurement officer for the Maryland Division of Correction. "We have two machines, but they're overloaded and sometimes they break down and we simply have to have backup."

So last week, the Maryland Division of Correction put out a call to private ice makers, asking them to pick up the slack and provide a few icebergs' worth of ice to the prisoners.

The division needs 18 tons of ice a week -- about the size of a minivan -- delivered to the Maryland House of Correction and its nearby annex, starting next week and running through Labor Day. Both prisons are in Jessup and house about 2,300 male inmates.

Myers is looking for vendors who can make three deliveries of bagged ice a week -- 10,000 pounds each Monday and Wednesday, and 16,000 pounds each Friday. Other state institutions are also stocking up on extra ice, either by making more themselves or by buying it, said Correction Division spokesman Dave Towers.

Towers said none of the prisons had run out of ice, but demand soared during last week's heat wave.

"This is a safeguard to help inmates," Towers said. "A lot of them are working and they need to be cooled off."

And it's not just a courtesy. It's a safety issue, Towers said.

Sweltering heat brought tempers to a boil and triggered a riot eight years ago at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown; 14 guards and 44 inmates were injured. A few days later, another riot nearly broke out at Brockbridge Correctional Facility in Jessup. Fifty inmates refused to return to their cells unless guards got them ice. After 90 tense minutes, the warden gave in.

The state hopes to sign an ice deal by the end of this week, but finding a supplier who can spare an extra 18 tons a week might be tough. At least two Baltimore-area ice suppliers said the demand for their ice tripled during the heat wave.

"We've got some customers, we're delivering two to three times a day to them," said Bill Woodfield of Woodfield Ice House in Galesville, which has been delivering more than 100 tons of ice to customers each weekend in recent weeks.

Woodfield said his company's three huge ice-making machines have been working overtime, but have still been unable to keep up.

Pub Date: 7/11/99

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