Sending repurposed equipment to other Maryland jails saved the state's taxpayers more than $300,000, Vernarelli said. By offering tons of copper, brass, stainless steel and other materials for recycling, planners also cut about $4 million off the original cost estimate of $10 million.

The whole project, officials said, cost about $4.5 million. There are no specific plans for the site.

Jessup residents were glad an obsolete prison was being razed — and that planners were wasting no resources.

"We have a request in for some of the bricks so we can build signs saying 'Welcome to Jessup,' " said Dana Herbert, secretary of the Jessup Improvement Association.

An afternoon wind whipped through a yard next to the prison as the crane, all 45 tons of it, hoisted the wrecking ball, bringing it down again and again onto the roof of the jail's oldest corridors.

It slowly widened the hole, eventually toppling the white balustrade below the roofline and sending it into a growing pile of rubble. The crowd held cellphones aloft to record the occasion.

As David Thrower, a 33-year-old inmate from Frederick, saw the walls begin to topple, he smiled.

He had helped remove the copper piping and brass fittings from within that wing, getting hazmat certification in the process. He said he looks forward to working in the hazmat field when he's released next year.

"It's nice to look up and see the fruits of your labors," he said.

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com