A Fairfax County task force said yesterday that the county needs to consider ways to relieve crowding at its three-year-old jail in addition to costly expansion -- a recommendation that drew immediate fire from the county's chief prosecutor and jailer.
While the group told the county supervisors that Fairfax needs to double the size of the jail and build a correction camp for 50 to 100 minimum-security prisoners, it placed those recommendations far down a list of 23 ways to deal with what it called "the critical problem" of inmate crowding.
Higher on the list were a number of proposals covering expansion of the jail's work-release program, which has only 30 prisoners, less than a third the size of Montgomery County's comparable 100-prisoner program.
Fairfax Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins and Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan -- two members of the task force -- were furious when they learned that the group's final report gave low priority to expansion of the jail.
"Does that mean I have to wait until all these other things are done before the jail is enlarged?" an irritated Huggins demanded of task force chairman Joseph F. O'Conner before his presentation to the supervisors.
O'Conner told Huggins, who runs the jail, that the priorities are philosophical and that planning funds for jail expansion are in the county's fiscal 1982 budget already.
Only partially mollified, Huggins told a reporter: "If we have a riot over there [at the jail], I hope the press understands, I hope they don't castrate me."
With his 254-capacity jail generally jammed with 350 or more prisoners, some of them sleeping in the hallways, Huggins has been waging an aggressive campaign to goad the supervisors -- and the public -- to support expansion.
The expansion proposals, plus a third one calling for construction of larger work-release center, would cost $17 million to $22 million, most of which would have to win voter approval in a bond referendum. In November, Fairfax voters overwhelmingly rejected an $8.6 million bond issue for jail expansion.
Task force chairman O'Conner, special assistant to the county clerk of the courts, yesterday was optimistic that if most of the spending would now be approved by Fairfax voters. "We have something to sell the voters," he said. "It was a blessing in disguise that the last referendum was defeated. It didn't address the problems, and the expansion it proposed [134 secure cells and 30 work-release beds] was not adequate."
O'Conner and the two citizen members of the eight-person task force stressed that their report included 23 recommendations, but acknowledged that the jail expansion and correction camp proposals were far down the list (items 20 and 21, respectively)."We aren't saying that the county shouldn't expand the jail," said task force member Kevin H. Bell. "We are saying that the county should look at other alternatives first."
Horan said he disagreed. "We're 'alternatived out.' Nobody, but nobody, is incarcerated automatically. If anybody is in jail, it's someone's calculated judgment he has to be there."
Critics have urged the county to consider alternatives to building more jail cells, which cost an average of $50,000 to $75,000 each to construct and require spending thousands more for staffing.
"Jail expansion goes against the national trend," said Judith A. Johnson, executive director of the National Coalition on Jail Reform, whose 32 groups include the American Bar Association. "It you build a bigger jail, you'll fill it right away. Most communities are saying they can't afford that."
The task force, while not taking any position on a bond referendum, urged the supervisors to hold a hearing on the issue with a month and decide by June 1 whether to place the jail issue before the voters. If approved, a vote could come as soon as the fall, county officials said.