ANNAPOLIS -- Sheriff John Brown said yesterday that a home detention program could ease crowding in Carroll's detention center and save the county up to $40,000 a year.
"You get the minor offenders out," he said. Home detention is a way to "free up bed space" for serious offenders.
The program, now being considered for Carroll in the General Assembly, would be an option for persons convicted of non-violent crimes, such as a first offense for driving while intoxicated, disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct, the sheriff said.
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony on Senate Bill 878, sponsored by Carroll Sens. Larry E. Haines and Charles H. Smelser. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will take testimony on House Bill 1454, sponsored by the Carroll delegation.
Both bills, which would allow Carroll to establish a home detention program, were introduced at Sheriff Brown's request.
Mr. Haines, a Republican who also represents Baltimore County, said he does not expect any opposition to the Senate bill, which applies only to Carroll.
Sheriff Brown was supposed to have testified yesterday, but was ill. He spoke to a reporter later by telephone after he faxed his testimony to the Senate committee.
He said the Carroll detention center, which has a capacity of 120 people, often is overcrowded. Recently, there were 138 people there.
If the bills pass and the county is allowed to use home detention, he said, people in the program would be monitored electronically.
Offenders would not be eligible for home detention if they have been found guilty of child abuse or escape, are serving sentences for violent crimes or have criminal charges pending in another city, county or state.
Offenders placed on home detention also would have to pay for it, under amendments to the bills, the sheriff said. He estimated that about 20 people would be on home detention per week and said he envisions charging them $10 each per day for using the monitors that the program would provide. Thus, the program could raise more than $70,000 a year.
The county also would save $30,000 to $40,000 a year because the Sheriff's Department would not have to feed or provide medical care for the people on home detention, he said.
Sheriff Brown said he would like to hire more deputies to help administer the program, but probably won't be able to do that because of the county's budget crunch.
He estimated that if he hired two guards to oversee the program, it would cost the county $21,000 each, plus fringe benefits.
Phones, travel and contractual services for the program would cost about $64,300 a year, he said.