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Prison hopes to get new housing

December 16, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is hoping to build a new housing unit at a prison in Washington County.

However, the project, expected to cost about $30 million, doesn't have state funding yet, according to David Bezanson, the department's assistant secretary for property service.

About 400 inmates at the Maryland Correctional Training Center live in Quonset huts, or prefabricated shelters, that weren't intended to be dormitories, Bezanson said.

Inmates have been housed in Quonset huts for at least 20 years, he said.

Bezanson spoke at the prison on Tuesday to about 35 newly elected legislators who stopped there during a three-day tour of the state.

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Public safety officials thanked the lawmakers-elect for their interest in the prison, and asked for their support when public safety issues come up.

In a phone interview later Tuesday, Bezanson said the department wants to build a 192-cell housing unit to replace the Quonset huts. At two inmates per cell, the new building would house up to 384 inmates.

Two huts would be renovated into space for programs and for Maryland Correctional Enterprises, an arm of the state Division of Correction in which prisoners help make goods.

A third hut and a small building would be demolished, Bezanson said.

The design work is about halfway done, he said.

The $30 million project also would include medical space for treating inmates. The current medical area is too small, Bezanson told the incoming lawmakers.

As of Tuesday, the prison had about 2,750 inmates, Richard Rosenblatt, the assistant secretary for treatment services for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, told the group.

Rosenblatt said prison medical costs are rising, particularly with high rates of AIDS and hepatitis C, a new trend.

Bezanson said he didn't know of any similar capital projects at Washington County's two other state prisons, Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown and Roxbury Correctional Institution.

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