Jail administrator's retirement opens door for new leadership Dean's deputy also to leave county corrections system


Baltimore County jail Administrator James M. Dean Sr. is planning to retire Sept. 2, after nearly nine years running the county's hodgepodge of crowded corrections facilities.

The move will mean entirely new leadership at the county's corrections system because Steven C. McLain, deputy jail administrator, is retiring next month after 21 years.

"I've had a long and tiresome career," Dean, 61, said yesterday, recalling his 31 years as a state employee, in addition to his time with the county. "I have really planned this for a long time. I'm tired."

Dean came to the county in 1988 after 15 years as superintendent of the then state-run Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for Boys in Cub Hill. He started as a juvenile probation officer in 1957 and leaves a job paying $67,900.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger said a transition team of top county officials -- including Dean -- immediately will begin looking for new jail leaders. "He's got a lot of expertise," the county executive said. "It's a tough job running a jail."

That job has been all the tougher because of the county's fast-growing jail population, which steadily outpaced construction of the detention center on Kenilworth Drive, which opened in 1982, and a 216-bed, $17.5 million addition in late 1994.

Because of the crowding, Dean was forced to keep using the old county jail on Bosley Avenue at Towsontown Boulevard, which opened in 1956 and now holds female prisoners, and a work release compound next door consisting of the original stone jail, built in 1854, and five modular jail units bolted together behind a fence.

As a result, county administrative officer Merreen E. Kelly said, corrections was one of the few county government departments to grow during the past few years. "We've added 100 people since 1987," Kelly said.

A consultant's study two years ago recommended construction of a jail big enough to hold at least 1,250 people on the county's east side by 1999, Ruppersberger says he has no money to build it, however, and hasn't acted on that idea.

Dean's performance won praise from top county officials, and from county Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican whose constituents live near the jails.

But the administrator's retirement also comes as a budget office investigation into a recent work release gaffe is under way.

That inquiry was ordered after the discovery in January that county police Lt. George Brooks was using four work-release inmates from the county jail as unarmed security guards for a private firm run by his wife. One of the inmates had a felony theft conviction, and Brooks' police powers were suspended. A police investigation into the case is continuing, but police spokesman Bill Toohey said Brooks, a 23-year veteran, has put in for retirement, effective April 14.

Dean said at the time that he did not know of and would not have allowed inmates to be hired as private security guards. He said Brooks has used inmates to do county snow shoveling and that Brooks told him that he had other work for the men.

Of his decision to retire, Dean said, "This is my choice and I want to do it my way. I'd like to enjoy my life a little bit."

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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