With Maryland's prisons more crowded than at any time previously, 120 inmates will soon be transferred to the state's institution for emotionally unbalanced criminals, where they will double up in cells designed for one person.
The move to increase the population at the Patuxent Institution in Jessup is part of a plan to add 1,100 beds throughout the corrections system, which now houses 2,703 prisoners more than its stated capacity.
"Patuxent was a last resort," Beverly Marable, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said yesterday. "We really didn't want to move in there, but we were forced to because of our numbers. We're concerned about double-celling in general, but when you have no alternative you have to do it."
Maryland has been ordered by federal judges to end its practice of putting two inmates in one cell at its most crowded prisons, but Patuxent was not included in any of the rulings.
The state's prison population, according to Marable, has increased by 2,000 in the last year. This brings the total to 9,870 in facilities designed for 7,167 inmates. "We're adding beds wherever we can," she said.
At his press conference yesterday, Gov. Harry Hughes, who was successful in persuading the legislature later in the day to agree to pay for a new prison, said the inmate population had increased in part because of more conservative criminal justice policies in Maryland.
Judges are doling out harsher sentences and requirements for parole have become tougher, Hughes said. He vowed that the state would not resort to early paroles or lenient work-release policies--as in the past--to solve overcrowding.
Patuxent Director Norma Gluckstern said yesterday she doesn't expect serious problems at her facility, which is already at capacity with 610 prisoners. Most of them are violent criminals who have committed murder, rape, armed robbery or assault. "The double-celling will be an operational problem," she said. "There will be some petty things that you always have when you have more people living together, and we'll just have to stay on top of them before they can escalate into something more severe."
The new inmates will be housed, two per cell, on one floor. Also doubled up--on a different floor--will be those Patuxent inmates who have not yet been sentenced to the facility, but are still undergoing the three-month evaluation that is first required.
The inmates who will move to Patuxent--sometime within the next months--already are on a waiting list for the institution, which offers psychiatric treatment for criminals whose crimes are judged to have been the result of psychological problems. The new inmates will be separated from the other 610 inmates at Patuxent and will not be included in the treatment program, officials said.
"We consider our program to be full at the moment," Patuxent administrative officer Carl Schlaich said yesterday. Schlaich said he assumed Patuxent would be given extra guards, but corrections systems administrators said this would depend on what money is available.
Patuxent officials have spent the last two weeks preparing for the new inmates. One of the toughest parts of the job is removing the single beds from the 66-inch by 80-inch concrete-walled cells to make room for bunk beds. The beds are bolted to the wall and the bolts welded to the frame, making it impossible for the inmates--and now for the maintenance workers--to move them. "They'll have to be cut off with a torch or broken off with an impact hammer," Schlaich said.
Also, as part of the plan to add beds to the correctional system, the Brockbridge Correctional Facility in Jessup will be changed from minimum to medium security and assigned 14 extra guards. Medium security inmates will be moved there from all over the state, according to Marable.