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Dayhoff: Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger retires

On June 30, Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger retired after nearly 22 years of service with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. According to a county news release, “Warden Hardinger was first appointed as Warden in August 1999 by Sheriff Ken Tregoning and was reappointed by Sheriff Jim DeWees in December 2014. Prior to working in Carroll County, he was the Director of Planning and Capital Construction at the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. [Hardinger earned] a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology from the University of Maryland.”

At a presentation on March 25 for the Carroll County NAACP, Hardinger shared information found on the county detention website, “The Warden is responsible for the daily operation of the Detention Center.

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On June 30, 2021, Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger retired after nearly 22-years of service with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Submitted photo
On June 30, 2021, Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger retired after nearly 22-years of service with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Submitted photo (Kevin Dayhoff)

“Staffing for the Detention Center consists of ninety-two Correctional Officers and fifteen civilian employees. In addition to the daily operation of the facility, the Detention Center manages an Inmate Work Release Program, a Pretrial Services program, an Inmate Addiction Program, a GED Program and a variety of other inmate services and programs…”

Most folks are aware of the current Carroll County Detention Center located at 100 N. Court St., Westminster. However, when I was growing up in Westminster, the “jail,” as it was known then, was located right next door to the current detention center in the large stone building.

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According to information provided by the county, Carroll County’s first jail was constructed in 1837, and operated until 1968 when a new 36-bed facility was built adjacent to the old jail. In 1985, an addition to that jail was built increasing the inmate housing capacity to 125.

In November 1999, a second addition was completed, which increased the inmate housing population to 185. The expansion provided for a 50-bed Work Release and Trustee housing unit, eight maximum security cells and 16 general population cells. The total square footage of the facility is 24,780 square feet.

Hardinger joins the ranks of a rich tradition and history of leadership in the Carroll County. Of course, since 1837 this is not the first time the Sheriff’s Office has been in the news, and this is not the first time I have written about the detention center and the old historic Carroll County Jail. Portions of this discussion have been published before.

Sheriff Jim DeWees presented retiring Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger a shadow box at ceremonies earlier in the month of June. Hardinger retired on June 30, 2021, after almost 22 years of service with the Carroll County Detention Center. Submitted photo
Sheriff Jim DeWees presented retiring Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger a shadow box at ceremonies earlier in the month of June. Hardinger retired on June 30, 2021, after almost 22 years of service with the Carroll County Detention Center. Submitted photo (Kevin Dayhoff)

On March 24, 1887, a local newspaper, the Carroll County Democrat reported that on a Monday afternoon, “a plan of several prisoners to escape was discovered by Sheriff [John T.] Lynch in time to prevent a general jail delivery.”

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Apparently, Sheriff Lynch was pretty shrewd because he sensed something was fishy based on a 10-day party the prisoners had been enjoying. As the newspaper reported, “Merriment and joy, singing and dancing during the evening, for the past 10 days, has been the rule of the prisoners.”

Who would have known that being in jail could be the fountain of such happiness? Of course, all the noise the prisoners were making was to hide a little mischief. Turns out that upon “careful scrutiny” the sheriff discovered that in cell No. 12, “The iron bars of the window were gone and replaced with broomsticks, blackened with charcoal.”

In researching various escape attempts, I came across a reference to what may have been the first escape from the Carroll County jail.

In an article for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Jay Graybeal, he recalls an April 8, 1948, newspaper article about the 111th anniversary of the Carroll County Circuit Court, which was celebrated with a special session of the court on a Saturday evening. The keynote speaker was Francis Neal Parke, former Chief Judge of the Circuit and member of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Parke gave a presentation about the history of the courthouse and the jail, and according to him, it was during the term of the first “Commissioners of the Tax” in the mid-1830s that the building of the courthouse was begun and the county jail was constructed.

“During the erection of the jail, temporary quarters had to be provided for prisoners,” Parke recalled.

Sheriff Jim DeWees, on the left, joins Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger, in the middle, and former Sheriff Ken Tregoning for recent retirement ceremonies at the historic county jail. On June 30, Hardinger retired after nearly 22 years of service with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Hardinger was first appointed as warden in August 1999 by Tregoning and was reappointed DeWees in December 2014. Submitted photo
Sheriff Jim DeWees, on the left, joins Carroll County Detention Center Warden George Hardinger, in the middle, and former Sheriff Ken Tregoning for recent retirement ceremonies at the historic county jail. On June 30, Hardinger retired after nearly 22 years of service with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Hardinger was first appointed as warden in August 1999 by Tregoning and was reappointed DeWees in December 2014. Submitted photo (Kevin Dayhoff)

“Nicholas Kelley had been elected the first sheriff of Carroll County in March 1837, and had by virtue of his office the custody of the prisoners. ... He obtained temporary quarters for them in the second story of a brick house on East Main Street, near the Washington Road … of Joshua Sundergill, and which later became the property of William Reese.”

According to Parke’s account, one prisoner was confined to this temporary jail and, “escaped by climbing down the spouting.”

According to a county news release, “Major Dennis Strine will be appointed as the next Warden for the Carroll County Detention Center. Major Strine first began his career at the Carroll County Detention Center as a Correctional Deputy in September 1997 and has worked his way up through the ranks to his current position as major overseeing the Support Services Division. Major Strine is a 1984 graduate of Francis Scott Key High School and holds Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southwest University in Louisiana.”

We trust that Strine will have better luck than Sheriff Kelley at guarding the rain spouts on the detention center and keeping the prisoners locked up securely.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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