The lawmakers recommend giving senior department officials new powers to suspend without pay officers suspected of smuggling contraband, even in cases when the offense would amount to a misdemeanor.

Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat, said legislators have been pushing the corrections department in recent years to firm up its plans for reconstructing the jail.

"We really want to see some action," he said in an interview. "This facility is just antiquated."

In the master plan submitted to the General Assembly in June, the corrections department pointed to the federal corruption indictment as demonstrating the need for a modern facility.

"The problems of gang activity and corruption in the BCDC are aggravated by the deteriorating physical condition and obsolete design of the facility," the department said. "The configuration of the building makes it difficult to directly supervise inmates and maintain the accountability of staff, as well as control movement through the facility."

"Security Improvements are needed, but the age of the infrastructure requires significant expenditures just to maintain minimal functionality of plumbing and heating systems, building envelope and life safety systems."

But Elizabeth Alexander, a Washington-based attorney involved in litigation over conditions at the jail, said that the problems of corrupt staff and inmates in gangs would not necessarily be solved by a grand building program.

"It would be nice if the violence and corruption went away first," Alexander said.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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