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Jail gets good review from state

May 21, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Less than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice threatened a possible lawsuit if conditions at the Washington County Detention Center didn't improve, the Maryland Commission on Correctional standards has found the jail complies with state standards.

"We are pleased to note that the facility has shown a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness for which all directly or indirectly involved should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment," wrote Marie C. Henderson, the chairwoman of the state commission, in a letter to County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

Henderson said the jail would receive a Recognition of Achievement award for the "high level of operational excellence and professionalism exhibited by the staff."

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Henderson's letter, dated May 6, was discussed at the County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

A nine-page Justice Department report dated April 18 said the jail was constitutionally deficient in suicide prevention, medical care, opportunity for outdoor exercise, hygiene, sanitation in female housing and access to courts.

The Justice Department report, based on a detailed tour of the facility last October and a brief follow-up on March 5, gave jail officials 49 days from April 18 to correct the deficiencies or potentially face a lawsuit.

"The irony of it is on the one hand the state says you're in 100 percent compliance, while on the other hand we're still dealing with the Department of Justice," said Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades.

Mades said the state report couldn't have come at a better time.

"Hopefully, this adds a little more support on our side that we're doing a good job," and might help raise employee morale, Mades said.

He praised detention center employees for their efforts in getting state certification.

Mades said the jail had taken some steps to respond to the Department of Justice and said the county would send a package of information to the department responding to their report. "I don't know if they'll ever be satisfied," he said.

Some County Commissioners, including James R. Wade and Ronald L. Bowers, have criticized the Department of Justice report. Wade called it a sickening example of liberal bureaucrats protecting criminals, not taxpayers, while Bowers said the report was indicative of "Big Brother," the watchful eye of big government.

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