Jail space needed for U.S. inmates

October 04, 2006|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,sun reporter

The top federal prosecutor in Maryland is asking Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to allow new federal detainees into the county's jail, saying the current ban has created a dire situation in the state.

Montgomery County's decision "has created a crisis for the Marshals Service and other participants in the federal criminal justice system," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein wrote to Duncan in a Sept. 15 letter.

But the head of the county's jails said yesterday the request would be impossible to honor because Montgomery County has no more room for outside prisoners.

"We continue to hold 15 federal prisoners so they don't have to find other bed space," said Arthur Wallenstein, director of the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. "They have a serious problem, as we did in this county until we built a new jail."

In his letter, Rosenstein argued that an increase in the number of violent criminals prosecuted in federal court in Maryland and an increase in the number of defendants incarcerated before trial have contributed to the need for more bed space.

In large part, the bed shortage stems from the lack of a dedicated federal detention facility for the U.S. marshals to house inmates awaiting trial in the state. Room must be found each night in local facilities across three states to put up about 500 federal prisoners from Maryland. A committee of lawyers in Maryland earlier this year recommended a new facility should be built on the site of the state's Supermax prison in Baltimore.

Montgomery County corrections officials said they are normally happy to help. In 2005, Montgomery County received more than $1 million for housing federal prisoners.

On average, the county held about 50 federal detainees at any time. But last month, when the county saw an increase of 100 prisoners accused of crimes in the county, they ran out of room.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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