Ground was broken last week on the $10.7 million extension to the Harford County Detention Center that will add 168 beds in three dormitories, new offices and an isolation unit by May 1997, officials said.
When the detention center opened in 1973 on the southeast corner of Route 24 and the Bel Air bypass, it was designed to house 94 inmates. Within one year, the jail population increased to 188. The jail has been expanded twice, with space for 284 inmates.
The daily population peaked at 340 this year, Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows told local and state government and law enforcement officials Thursday. He called the jail's expansion necessary, but a "frightening reality of our society."
In addition to easing crowding, the new wing will enhance the ability to provide innovative correctional programs, the sheriff said.
The cost of the project is being shared, 54 percent from the state and 46 percent from the county.
The detention center houses male and female prisoners for up to 18 months. The average daily population does not include about 60 people who are on home detention or in a pretrial release program, jail officials said.