Drug and alcohol abuse treatment is the heart of an anti-crime platform unveiled Friday by county executive candidate H. Erle Schafer.
Mr. Schafer, a Democrat and former clerk of the Circuit Court, said the county does not need the 384-bed jail proposed for Glen Burnie by County Executive Robert R. Neall or to expand the Detention Center outside Annapolis.
Instead, he said, the county need only renovate the Jennifer Road jail and build a treatment facility, modeled after a program in Prince George's County, to reduce the addictions that lead to crime and repeat offenses. He said he has not chosen a location for the treatment center.
Mr. Schafer outlined his plan for public safety and education in documents released at the Annapolis Democratic Breakfast Club on Friday morning.
At least 350 of the 500 inmates at the Anne Arundel Detention Center, which is badly in need of renovation, have alcohol and drug addictions, Mr. Schafer said Friday afternoon.
"The public debate has focused too long and hard on where to put the jail instead of what is really needed to get at the root cause of the alcohol and drug problems," he said in the document. "Recent studies have shown that treatment is more effective and less expensive than law enforcement."
Mr. Schafer, 56, of Glen Burnie said defendants should pay for the treatment if they can afford it.
Mr. Schafer also said he would push to add nine police officers to the force during his first year. County police requested 25 officers this spring, though Mr. Neall only found money for 16.
Mr. Schafer, a former state senator and County Council member, said he believed he could finance the additional officers within the existing budget. However, he said, if more money is needed, he would lobby state lawmakers to share proceeds from the state lotteries, which are now booming.
Turning to fire protection, Mr. Schafer's position paper says he supports the recommendations in the Report of the Fire Department Study Committee, which was completed in April and raised the ire of many volunteer firefighters.
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Schafer clarified his position by saying that he supports many, though not all, of the proposals as a "first step" to resolving the conflicts between the paid and volunteer firefighters.
To make the county executive more accountable for public education, Mr. Schafer said he favors shifting responsibility for appointing the school board from the citizen-based nominating convention and the governor to the executive. The appointments could be confirmed by either the county's four state senators or the County Council, he said.
Mr. Schafer said he would also like to shift authority from school headquarters in Parole to principals and teachers. He is to meet with teachers at a forum at 6 p.m. tomorrow night at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.
Theodore Sophocleus, another of the Democratic candidates, has been endorsed by the teachers union.