Veteran corrections official named chief of Baltimore County bureau

November 12, 2001|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

James P. O'Neill, a veteran corrections administrator, has been named head of the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections.

O'Neill's chief task will be overseeing the $70 million expansion of the Towson jail, a project that will double the number of beds to 1,786 over 20 years and require an overhaul of county detention procedures.

O'Neill's appointment as administrator of the bureau was announced late last week. He began working for Baltimore County as deputy administrator a year ago and became acting administrator in May. He has worked on the expansion of detention centers in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

"We need a strong and competent administrative leader," County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said in a prepared statement. "Jim has 27 years of experience in corrections. He is uniquely qualified to see this project through and to run a top-notch corrections facility."

The expansion of the jail on Kenilworth Drive has met with strong opposition from neighbors and area business owners. But because O'Neill joined the county months after Ruppersberger announced expansion plans, opponents generally have not transferred their ire to O'Neill. Some opponents credit O'Neill with trying to make the expansion more palatable.

O'Neill said the expansion also will be a major administrative challenge. Besides managing a crowded detention center during construction, he said, he will have to organize a transition team 12 to 15 months before the first phase of the expansion is completed, which is targeted for spring 2004. The team will set up security and operational procedures, and will incorporate new technology.

"It's really a time when you look at every facet of your operations, from how a piece of trash gets out of the building to how you do your daily counts," he said. "You take a fresh look at everything you do."

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