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County seeks money to prosecute state prison crimes

February 05, 2001

County seeks money to prosecute state prison crimes



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers want the state to pay for prosecuting crimes at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.

A bill filed this session would require Maryland to reimburse state's attorney's offices statewide for the cost of such prosecutions.

The bill was prompted by a $60,000 state grant that helped Anne Arundel County cover the cost of prosecuting crimes at Jessup.

Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee got the grant last year after he refused to prosecute felonies at the prison.

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long argues that what's good for Anne Arundel County is good for Washington County.

Long's office just finished a week-long trial at which two former Maryland Correctional Training Center prisoners were convicted of murdering a fellow inmate and stealing his designer clothes and shoes.

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The case tied up two prosecutors for a week, and required hours of preparation.

Long has not yet put a dollar figure on the cost of prosecuting prison crimes.

"Our experience is anecdotal and based on observations," he said.

The county houses about 6,800 inmates, or about one-third of the state's prison population, at the prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Murder trials take up the most time, and another one is scheduled for April. Long said his office also investigates complaints of assault and concealed weapons.

The court system doesn't keep statistics on prison crimes.

Long said he would have to go through his files by hand to come up with a dollar figure, which he said he would willing to do if the state agrees to pay.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, suggested the Washington County delegation to the legislature take the lead on the bill.

Lawmakers from other jurisdictions that have state prisons - Allegany County, Anne Arundel County, Somerset County and the City of Baltimore - have signed on in support.

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