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State mulls cost of inmate prosecutions

March 19, 2001

State mulls cost of inmate prosecutions



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Maryland officials eventually may pick up the tab for prosecuting inmate crimes at the state prison complex south of Hagerstown.

Even though Washington County legislation urging the state to pay for the prosecutions isn't likely to pass this session, local lawmakers are pinning their hopes on a study. General Assembly leaders have directed the state to calculate the cost of prosecuting inmate crimes at all state prisons and devise a plan to increase state funding.

"That's exactly what we wanted. We got the message across," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

About one-third of the state's prison population is housed in Washington County, yet local taxpayers bear the cost of prosecuting crimes that occur there.

Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee brought attention to the issue last year when he threatened to stop prosecuting inmate-on-inmate crimes until he got state aid.

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The result was a one-time $60,000 grant for Anne Arundel County.

That amount doesn't cover the entire cost, which is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's Office.

Washington County State's Attorney Kenneth Long said he hasn't been able to estimate his costs. Murder trials post the biggest expense, he said.

Michael Sanderson, legislative director for the Maryland Association of Counties, said it makes sense for the state to shoulder the court costs.

"These aren't taxpaying citizens of the community. It's not a community protection issue," he said.

The study is mandated by amendment to the state's 2002 budget, which has passed the House of Delegates. The Senate must also give its approval.

The study is to be completed by the Governor's Office on Crime Control and Prevention, with the help of various other state agencies and the Maryland Association of Counties. The due date is Sept. 15.

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