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State gives jail highest marks

July 27, 2000

State gives jail highest marks



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


As he accepted an award for the Washington County Detention Center achieving a state compliance rating of 100 percent, Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades remembered a time when it was a different story.

In 1995 and 1996, a series of suicides and suicide attempts at the Washington County Detention Center attracted the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice.

"I'm so proud of the staff here for turning this around," Mades said Thursday.

The Justice Department issued a report in April 1997 and threatened a lawsuit if certain deficiencies weren't corrected, including some in the area of suicide prevention.

Mades said jail personnel made physical alterations to cells and increased surveillance and staffing to prevent suicide attempts.

"An increase in staff by 22 people also allowed us to increase opportunities for outdoor exercise," Mades said. Security has gone up and travel expenses are down since bond reviews can now be done by videotape from the jail, he said.

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As a result of the improvements, the Justice Department closed its investigation in November 1998 with a positive report.

"We got a letter then saying everything was fine," Mades said.

With the controversy in the past, Mades and his staff welcomed Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards Executive Director Donald Jones and Chairwoman Marie Henderson to the jail for the presentation.

The jail continued to receive high marks from the state agency even while the federal probe was going on, and was found to be in compliance for six straight years.

The commission has 78 standards related to the operations of adult detention centers, Henderson said.

When the jail was inspected in 1999, two deficiencies were pointed out:

- Tools used outside the facility were not inventoried properly.

- Weekly inspection and inventory of medical and dental instruments weren't being done.

Mades said both issues were addressed before the inspection was over and after six months they were removed from the noncompliance list.

"This is not won lightly," Henderson said. She credited Van Evans, jail warden, with insisting on excellence and motivating his staff.

"We are also currently accredited through the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, Maryland State Fire Marshal, Washington County Health Department and Maryland Occupational Safety and Health," Mades said.

The jail is applying for accreditation through the American Correctional Association which has 440 separate minimum standards.

That first inspection could take place in the spring of 2001.

Washington County Commissioner President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell also attended Thursday's presentation.

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