Sheriff seeks INS contract; Holding immigrants would provide revenue


Carroll County Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said yesterday that he plans to pay for major changes within his department and the county jail by housing 16 or more suspected illegal immigrants.

Tregoning said he is negotiating a contract with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service authorities to hold suspected illegal immigrants once a jail addition is completed in May. Such a move would generate about $325,000 each year because the federal government pays for their housing costs.

"If we get a contract to hold 16 INS prisoners, we would receive $408,000 and net about $325,000 after paying for their food and other expenses," Tregoning said. "Guarding them won't involve hiring more correctional officers."

He said space for federal prisoners will be available as soon as the 100-bed addition at the Carroll

County Detention Center in Westminster is completed. Neighboring Howard County also holds INS prisoners in its detention center.

Housing federal prisoners is one of a number of changes Tregoning outlined in an interview. A former state police commander, he succeeded John H. Brown as sheriff Dec. 7.

The black-and-white striped jail uniforms, which Brown had ordered to call attention to crowded conditions at the detention center in 1997, will be phased out, said Warden Mason Water, who runs the detention center.

He also is implementing central booking, in which arresting officers bring suspects to one location for processing. Currently, suspects are processed at the state police barracks or municipal police departments, taken to the district court commissioner and then jail.

State police and all police chiefs of municipal forces in Carroll County support central booking, because it will get arresting officers back on patrol more quickly, Tregoning said.

The jail's work-release policies have been stiffened and home detention is being considered, Waters said.

Within about two months, a new police dog will begin enhancing security, checking inmates on work release as they return each evening to the detention center.

The dog can also provide extra safety for correctional officers during periodic jail-house sweeps for contraband, Tregoning said. The dog has been donated.

Other changes include providing flexible, rather than hard, plastic ballpoint pens for inmates' use, Waters said, bending a sample pen in his fingers.

"We had an inmate stabbed with a stiff ballpoint pen last year, something that is correctable by changing the type of pens," Tregoning said.

Waters said staffing changes more closely align corrections and sheriff's services. Operations at the jail and within the sheriff's office were previously kept separate.

"We have a very energized sheriff," he said. "The sheriff is looking at the operation from a total perspective. We were divided before; we're functioning better as a whole now."

Changes in work-release policies came about after Tregoning listened to correctional staff and discussed the problem with county judges, Waters said.

"We had 14 walk-offs [inmates on work release who failed to return from their jobs] last year, compared to five in Howard County," Waters said.

This year, one inmate on work release walked away but was captured two weeks later, after a break-in at a Finksburg home.

Realizing the potential public safety hazard, Tregoning sought input and made a recommendation, Waters said.

Instead of ordering work release, judges will recommend it, and "our staff will do the screening, looking at an inmate's past history, employment record, whether there is a risk of flight," Waters said.

"We'll also be talking to a lot more people [in the screening process], co-workers and family members, and considering other factors, such as is there a pregnant wife who needs support at home," he said.

His budget proposal for fiscal 2000 contains no requests for added deputies or correctional officers, Tregoning said.

"I believe we can do the job by better allocation of the staff," he said. "We will shift some deputies, who are trained as police officers, from correctional [positions] into sheriff's services."

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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