A bond proposal to fund jail expansion in Fairfax County, defeated by county voters last year, has been revived this fall with county officials tripling the fund request.
Added to that proposal, which totals $16.2 million, is a new, even more controversial request for $7.2 million in bonds to build a medium-security correctional camp for nonviolent criminals. If the medium-security plan is approved, county officials already are predicting a bitter fight over location of the facility.
The proposed jail bonds are among four bond issues that will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.The other two are a $57.2 million bond issue for new school construction and renovation of old schools and a $30 million request to improve secondary roads in the county. All four proposals require a simple majority for approval.
The largest of the two jail bond issues would allow the county to build a three-story addition to the jail. That addition would house 200 beds in the maximum-security section of the jail and 70 new beds for the minimum-security center, which also is part of the jail complex.
Count officials maintain the new facilities will be able to handle county prison needs through the year 2000. If the bond issue is approved, the county estimates the expansion could be completed by late 1985 or early 1986.
Although Fairfax completed a new jail complex only three years ago, Fairfax Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins has been pushing aggressively for the expansion of more than a year. Huggins repeatedly has said that the jail, completed in 1978 and designed for 198 prisoners, sometimes houses up to 400 inmates. The overcrowding, jail officials have said, often forces prisoners to sleep in the hallways.
"We've got to get these mattresses off the floor," said Marty Treadwell, co-chairman of a bond information committee appointed by the supervisors for the Nov. 3 referendum. "There is concern that this is an inhumane way to treat people. The sheriff lives in fear of some type of federal action against the conditions."
Although the expansion proposal has brought strong opposition, the plan for the correction camp has generated a particularly vehement debate among several groups in the county. Even the Board of Supervisors is split on the issue.
The corrections camp proposal, strongly supported by some prison reform groups and just as strongly opposed by other county organizations, will be listed separately on the ballot.
The camp would provide space for up to 100 nonviolent inmates, and its major purpose would be to provide job training for prisoners. It also would include a prisoner-run farm to raise produce for the county jail system. The county has no such facilities for medium-security inmates.
Some prison reform groups support the corrections camp as an alternative to traditional incarceration. Inmates at the facility could be trained in skills they could use when they are released, according to those who support the concept.
Other groups counter that the corrections camp would be a waste of money and that many of the same prisoners could be routed through the county's work-release program.
Despite county claims that the two proposals would meet jail needs for the next 20 years, some opponents have attacked that contention, noting that the existing jail exceeded its capacity within two years of its opening.
"If you build additional jail cells," said Frederick Lowry, director of Community Ministry of Fairfax County, "they're going to be filled. It's not a way to deal with overcrowding."
The Board of Supervisors' strongest ammunition in seeking voter approval of the bonds, according to supporters, is a comprehensive corrections plan compiled earlier this year by a special task force of judges, attorneys and citizens.
That plan had listed several alternatives to building new jail space, including expanding alcohol and drug programs and revamping some court procedures. County officials said they have now implemented many of those programs and have appropriated $2.5 million for the projects, but still need additional jail space.
Last year's bond referendum for $8.6 million to expand the jail was defeated overwhelmingly.
Treadwell said this year's bond proposal has generated little public interest outside of organized civic groups, leaving county officials with little indication of the bonds' chances for passage.
"The question is not do we need more jail space," Bell said. "The issue is whether voters want us to pay for it through bond sales or out of general funds. There's no question the Board of Supervisors will have to find the money for expanding the jail."