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Detention center said safe

November 26, 1997

Detention center said safe

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades told the County Commissioners Tuesday that he feels the county jail is safe, but said he'll probably ask for money to hire more guards next year.

The commissioners have approved hiring 12 new guards this fiscal year, which started July 1. Seven already have been hired and five more will be hired in January.

"The additional staff permits posts to be properly manned," Mades said.

Mades had requested 22 guards - the number recommended by a study of the facility.

The need for additional guards has been spurred by a growing inmate population.

A Washington County grand jury, which toured the jail in June before the new guards were hired, said the jail was understaffed to the point of putting employees in danger.

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Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, which cited the county for alleged deficiencies at the jail in April, will visit the jail in early December, Mades said.

Justice Department officials had charged the jail with having inadequacies in the area of suicide prevention, AIDS and other health care, hygiene, access to courts, and sanitation in the female housing unit.

Since the Justice Department contacted the county, regulators from the state of Maryland gave the jail a clean bill of health.

The National Institute on Correctional Health Care also examined the jail, and last week certified the jail as meeting 100 percent of national standards. Only seven correctional facilities in Maryland have received the certification, Mades said.

Mades said Prime Care, a managed care company contracted to care for inmates, has done a good job cutting costs, which are coming in about 25 percent under budget so far this year.

The grand jury also recommended mandatory AIDS testing for all inmates in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mades told the commissioners that mandatory AIDS tests are a violation of the inmates' civil rights. Even if testing were allowed, it would be a violation of inmates' civil rights if they were segregated from the rest of the population because they have the disease.

Laws would have to be changed at a state and federal level to permit AIDS testing, Mades said.

Although mandatory testing is illegal, inmates must attend AIDS awareness classes given by the county Health Department, Mades said.

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