Sheriff says 22 new guards needed at detention center

March 12, 1997


Staff Writer

Citing a booming prisoner population in the past year, Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades Tuesday asked the Washington County Commissioners for an additional $1 million to fund the county Detention Center.

"This is the nightmare, gentlemen," Mades said.

Mades said that the average number of prisoners rose from 310 per day in February 1996 to 367 this February. The prisoner count reached an all-time high of 400 Sunday, before dropping to 387 Tuesday, Mades said.

About $446,000 would pay for 22 new correctional officers, in addition to the 64 already employed. The cost would have been $644,015 if the new officers would all be hired July 1, when the new fiscal year starts. Instead, the officers would be phased in, saving money in the first year, Mades said. A new clerk and a chef also were requested. Mades also requested large increases in food, health care and other items because of the higher inmate population.


The total Sheriff's Department budget request for fiscal 1998, which begins July 1, is $6.9 million, a $1.2 million increase over the current budget.

Mades attributed the increased population to more drug arrests. Thirty street-level drug dealers were brought to the jail in one week recently, Mades said.

"That's the scary part. There is money to be made in drugs in Washington County."

Mades said a report issued by the National Institute of Corrections last month described the jail as crowded and undermanned. Mades also told the County Commissioners that the officer-to-inmate ratio at the jail paled in comparison to other jurisdictions with similar inmate populations, such as Charles, Frederick, Harford and Howard counties.

Mades said understaffing at the prison was leading to more inmate on inmate assaults.

"There is a gang mentality in the detention center," he said.

Mades said the size of the cooking staff was the same as it was when the jail opened in 1984, despite a near doubling of the inmate population.

Another booking clerk also was necessary to make sure paperwork mistakes weren't made as the population grows, he said.

Also, $154,000 more than last year's budget was requested for machinery and equipment, including $50,628 for 30 home detention monitoring units and a $38,000 lightning suppression system. A strike in 1995 temporarily incapacitated many of the electric locking systems and caused a safety problem, Mades said.

Mades said that the budget picture won't get any brighter next year. The county will have to take over law enforcement at Fort Ritchie by June 30, 1998, he said.

Some commissioners said that the Sheriff's Department deserved an increase but not necessarily all that was sought.

Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said this was a "get-tough on crime" budget and that more resources needed to be spent as drugs continue to show up in the county.

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