- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Prince George’s County Correctional Center needs more cells, despite a $16 million expansion that provided more space four years ago.

Many inmates are being housed in the jail’s common areas, not cells, The Washington Times found during a recent tour of the Upper Marlboro facility.

The jail’s intake housing unit, where new inmates are admitted and processed, and its medium-security unit sport rows of bunk beds in open-air rooms where inmates usually gather to talk, play cards or write letters.

Dozens of inmates reside and sleep in the common spaces, right in front of the desks where correctional officers stand watch.

Barry L. Stanton, director of the county Department of Corrections, said the jail had an average daily population of 1,202 inmates last year, but that average has hovered around 1,300 for the past four months.

Many inmates are pre-trial defendants awaiting hearings, and their numbers fluctuate as the courts deal with cases. The jail holds and processes all persons arrested by county police and police in 24 municipalities.

“There is no capacity, as far as people go. We have to take everyone that is arrested,” Mr. Stanton said. “It is not as if we can shut down the facility.”

He said the jail is doing the best that it can, given the county’s high level of crime.

Built in 1987, the facility is authorized to house 1,332 inmates in its spaces, including a $16 million addition built in 2001 that provided 192 new beds and expanded the medical center.

Corrections officials said there are no plans for further expanding the 18-year-old facility or creating more cells.

A $3 million refurbishing of the jail’s housing units for about 1,200 inmates is planned to begin in July, but no new beds will be added.

Next year’s refurbishing is the final phase of a three-part upgrade of the facility’s housing and security that began in 1999. At the time, officials said the improvements would make the county jail one of the most modern in the country.

Last month, officials announced the completion of an $8 million security upgrade. The second phase of the three-part upgrade included improvements to the security fence around the jail and construction of an administration building that holds the jail’s records, as well as its special operations and management units.

During a tour last month, The Times found 19 inmates residing among 25 bunk beds in the middle of the intake housing unit. Another 16 inmates were on bunk beds in the medium-security housing unit.

“We try to get them into a room as we get space available,” said Michael Hackney, a lead correctional officer in an older medium-security housing unit.

All dangerous offenders, however, are kept in cells in a separate area of the jail, officials said.

“We don’t use bunk beds in our segregated units,” Mr. Stanton said. “We use them to make sure inmates are classified properly in the appropriate housing units. And sometimes, based on their classification, they can’t go into less-secure units or more-secure units.”

Mr. Stanton said inmates usually are moved from intake housing within five days, after they have been tested for tuberculosis.

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