Arundel's Traveling Jail Circus


Enough is enough. The time has come for Anne Arundel County's Traveling Jail Circus to find a place to pitch its tents for good.

While the existing county jail gets more outdated and overcrowded by the day, the traveling circus has spent nearly two years hopping from place to place -- packing up and moving when each community and its elected representatives start screaming. First Glen Burnie. Then Pasadena. South County. Crownsville. Millersville (the choice of a county executive-appointed site selection committee). And lastly, the County Council brought the new jail site back to the existing jail, located on Jennifer Road in Parole outside of Annapolis.

Urged on by their elected state representatives, Annapolis residents are pressuring the Anne Arundel County Council to withdraw support for Jennifer Road. This could happen; council members have changed their minds on this issue before.

If the council wishes to drop Jennifer Road because it truly wants to find a better site, fine. It has been clear from the start that the Jennifer Road location has problems (though it is not the disaster residents contend); council members chose that site because it was politically expedient, not because it made the most sense. It's hard to argue if they now want to make a more responsible choice.

Unfortunately, they haven't given us reason to believe they would do this. They and the members of the Arundel State House delegation are very good at fighting to keep the jail out of their own districts, but they're either unwilling or inept when it comes to identifying a better alternative and mustering support for it. Nobody, after all, wants to be responsible for forcing a jail down another community's throat.

But there is no point in the council doing an about-face on Jennifer Road if it doesn't have the fortitude to build consensus for a better site. That goes for state lawmakers, too. They can't say they don't want it here and don't want it there without saying where they do want it. Taking tough stands is what they were elected to do.

If opponents of Jennifer Road believe that, say, Millersville is the best site, then they ought to be willing to stand behind that decision when Millersville residents and their elected representatives hit the roof -- as they inevitably would. Without such political determination, it is only a matter of time before residents in Millersville (or Crownsville, or wherever) kick the circus out of town, and the whole miserable process starts all over again.

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