Prison expansion protested Annapolitans ask for alternate site


The County Council listened to a parade of Annapolis-area residents, including State Police Superintendent Larry Tolliver, plead last night that it reconsider a proposed major expansion of the detention center.

The council recommended in November that the jail on Jennifer Road, near U.S. 50, the main thoroughfare into Annapolis, be expanded instead of building a new facility on a different site after encountering vigorous community opposition at each proposed location.

The possibility of expansion became almost a certainty after Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall abandoned plans to build a new jail complex in Glen Burnie. He opted instead to construct a $71 million addition to the existing facility to be built in three phases over six years. The addition would double the capacity to 1,200 inmates.

Annapolis residents made it clear at last night's hearing that they think expansion is a bad idea, and they resented being left out of the decision-making process.

Helen Ann Laurie had the crowd of about 100 both laughing and cheering as she lampooned the council's decision.

"The only winners in this destructive ride of the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' is the 'not in my backyard' crowd," she said. "No, it won't be in Pasadena or Arnold or Glen Burnie or Millersville. It will be a blight at the Gateway to Annapolis, your lockup away from home."

Tom Negri, president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Convention and Visitors Bureau, also worried about the effect a larger jail would have on the city's image.

"We've spent millions of dollars and tens of years bringing historic Annapolis up," said Mr. Negri, who manages the Loews Annapolis Hotel. "You are now building the city's single largest hotel. The best location."

Alderman John Hammond and City Manager Michael Mallinoff complained bitterly that Annapolis officials were left out of the decision process.

"It is flat out the wrong site. . . ." Mr. Mallinoff said. Further, it reflects "a philosophy of incarceration, not rehabilitation," he said.

Expanding the jail on that site was ridiculous after all the time and money that has been spent by the State Highway Administration to beautify the entrance to the city along U.S. 50, Mr. Hammond said.

"And what are we going to do but put concertina wire on the shoulder? It just doesn't make sense," he said.

Dan Masterson of the Admiral Heights Improvement Association presented the council with 631 signatures of residents who urged that it reconsider its decision.

"The decision was made, and now Annapolis has to live with it," he said. "What we are seeing is the most profound disillusionment with county government that I have ever seen."

Several speakers expressed concern about the impact of the expanded jail on nearby Weems Creek.

"We feel any more construction in this area could mean the death of Weems Creek," said Peggy Spiker.

Elizabeth McWethy of the Weems Creek Conservancy told the council of many occasions when jail inmates have intentionally plugged plumbing with paper and clothing, forcing raw sewage into the creek.

Superintendent Tolliver, an Admiral Heights resident, echoed concerns that the creek was no longer clean.

"When I first moved there, my children could swim in the creek. They no longer can," he said.

He also said that because of living so near a jail, he and his neighbors worry about security, especially with work-release inmates.

"They will start drifting into my community," Mr. Tolliver said. "I think if we see the expansion of the jail, we're not going to feel safe."

The detention center is listed on the capital budget that Mr. Neall submitted to the council Monday. A final decision will be made on its fate during council budget deliberations this month.

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