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Governor signs first Washington County bill

April 09, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Tuesday signed a measure allowing Washington County Detention Center prisoners to await trial on home detention.

It was the first of a dozen Washington County bills that passed the Maryland General Assembly during the legislative session that ended Monday.

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades asked for the legislation, which was endorsed by the Washington County Commissioners and the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

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The measure, which goes into effect Oct. 1, will save an undetermined amount of money by reducing the jail population, Mades said.

Mades will collect fees from offenders who use the program to cover the cost of leasing the equipment.

Judges have been allowed to sentence inmates to serve their time through home detention since 1989, Mades said.

Since then, the county has collected $729,000 in fees and saved $2.8 million in housing costs, he said.

The new law will extend the program to those awaiting trial.

Inmates will not be allowed to participate if they have been convicted of a violent crime, child abuse or escape.

Washington County lawmakers did not attend the bill-signing ceremony held in the governor's reception room.

Ehrlich sat between House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.

The ceremony had a conciliatory tone after a session in which the three men were often at odds over slot machine gambling and how to fix the state's budget deficit.

"We have a better understanding of where we can go next year," Miller said.

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