Jail wing seen as interim solution; Tregoning says addition will allay crowding for 5-7 years


When the long-awaited $6.1 million, 100-bed addition at the Carroll County Detention Center opens, it will be a temporary fix for crowding -- five to seven years at most -- jail officials said.

But they are optimistic that "creative management" will afford county leaders enough time to make long-term plans.

More effective use of supervised pretrial release, work release and home detention programs can buy time to look ahead five, 10 or 15 years, said Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning and Lt. Col. George R. Hardinger, jail warden.

They insisted the new wing will not be obsolete when it opens -- expected this month. The addition was supposed to open last month but has been delayed twice -- first by unfinished work, such as painting, and then by problems with new boilers.

Inmates will move into the addition in stages until renovations -- installation of sprinklers, painting and cleaning -- are completed in the old portion of the facility, Hardinger said.

The daily inmate population is about 190. With the new wing, the ideal capacity of the detention center will be 224.

"I would feel comfortable adding extra beds in certain areas, if the fluctuating daily jail population rises above 224," said Hardinger. Perhaps 20 to 30 extra beds could be "comfortably added" without compromising employee or inmate safety.

As the county grows, the inmate population is likely to increase, Tregoning said.

"We need a plan that looks out 20 to 30 years," the sheriff said. "We will be stressed within five to seven years."

He noted the jail was renovated in 1968 and again in 1986. The addition has been in the planning stages since the late-1980s.

Tregoning and Hardinger believe the most effective solution for now is to fine-tune existing programs and implement new ones.

The work-release program lessens crowding during the day, when inmates are away at jobs. Stricter controls on who is eligible reduces the amount of contraband being brought back to the jail, Tregoning said.

Tregoning has sought and received support from Carroll judges to recommend, rather than order, work release and not order it so that his staff can set the criteria.

"We had to curb contraband being brought into the jail by those on work release, and we had to cut down on the number of walk-offs" -- those who went to work and did not return -- Tregoning said.

Those goals have been accomplished, he said, citing one walk-off in 10 months, in contrast to 18 walk-offs in the 12 months before he took command as the county's elected sheriff in December.

Fine-tuning the pretrial supervision program has also helped reduce overcrowding. Those charged with nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors can be released while awaiting trial, but the court retains control if they fail to adhere to strict regulations.

Tregoning also has proposed legislation that would give his office the authority under certain criteria to place an inmate on home detention.

"We're talking about those within 30 to 90 days of completing their sentences for misdemeanor crimes, nondrug-related crimes or nonviolent crimes," Tregoning said. "Having that authority would be a better management tool for the sheriff and warden to manage the jail population and transition inmates through home detention back into society."

Getting inmates out of jail sooner would be a benefit, not a goal, of the proposed legislation, Hardinger said.

Another benefit of home detention is the savings for taxpayers.

Housing an inmate at the detention center costs $56.05 a day; inmates on home detention typically pay a private vendor $8 to $12 a day for a monitoring device, Tregoning said.

"Once again, that's a benefit and not a goal." Hardinger said. "The purpose of the correctional system is to better prepare those who are incarcerated to re-enter society successfully."

With current staffing, the jail can handle about 70 inmates on work release and about 10 on home detention. Tregoning met with county commissioners recently, seeking approval to hire two female guards for the jail's staff.

Additional female guards are needed, he said, because more women are being incarcerated and male guards are not allowed to perform body-cavity searches on female inmates.

The commissioners approved the hiring of one additional female guard.

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