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Sheriff: Facility may cause inmate population to rise

November 19, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

While a proposed $1.5 million central booking facility at the Washington County Detention Center would increase safety for area police and speed up the arrest process, it also may cause the inmate population to rise, Sheriff Charles F. Mades said in a written report to the County Commissioners.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said it's possible a second floor would have to be added to the center in the next several years.

Mades, who supports a central booking facility, gave the commissioners an update on the status of the proposed booking facility at Tuesday's meeting.

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He said in the written report that "there is little doubt" the inmate population would rise because central booking would allow for an increased police presence on the streets.

Mades said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon that he thought police would make more arrests as a result of their increased presence on the streets, but it would take time to determine whether the rise in arrests would cause the center to reach capacity.

The center has an average of 350 to 370 inmates at a time and has enough beds for 458 inmates, Mades said.

Mades said he thought a central booking facility was more important than a jail expansion.

"I'm not pushing for an addition to the jail over central booking," Mades said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting that an expansion of the jail is not included in the county's six-year Capital Improvement Program.

A central booking facility would rely on correctional officers to process arrests, allowing police to get back to their patrol duties faster, police have said.

Mades said 10 correctional officers and one supervisor would be hired to staff the facility.

A person would be booked, held and arraigned before a District Court commissioner at the central booking facility, where they could be taken directly to jail without the risks associated with transporting inmates, according to Mades' written report.

Charging documents would be prepared and served at the facility, and mug shots and fingerprints also would be taken there, the report states.

Mades said the central booking facility would include three court commissioner offices.

While Mades and Capt. Douglas Mullendore told the County Commissioners that such a facility would shave about 90 minutes off the time it takes to make an arrest, the hours saved would vary depending upon the type of arrest.

Mades said each police agency that uses the central booking facility should sign a Memorandum of Understanding that would spell out the costs to the agency, and obligations and responsibilities of using the facility.

The Hagerstown Police Department books the most inmates a year, at about 40 percent, followed by the Sheriff's Department at 31.2 percent.

An estimate prepared by Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc. of Hagerstown states that renovations to the center to create a central booking facility would cost more than $1.5 million.

Mades' written report states that the center's operating costs would be about $600,000 per year.

The facility would include seven holding cells, a fingerprint area, inmate property storage, a control station with a processing area and an officer's report area.

Mades has asked that the County Commissioners support a state bond bill that would help pay for the proposed central booking facility.

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