Following an escape, an attempted escape and assaults on guards at the Prince George's County Detention Center this summer, county executive Lawrence J. Hogan has asked the National Association of Sheriffs for help. In a letter this week, Hogan asked the association to conduct a "security audit" and make recommendations on improving security at the jail.
Jail officials place much of the blame on overcrowding: The detention center was designed to hold 170 inmates but regularly houses more than 400. As the result of a lawsuit, the county has agreed to build a new jail, which is expected to be completed in three or four years.
Hogan said he sought help from the sheriffs' association "to identify additional steps that we might take to improve security at our existing detention facility." The 55,000-member organization, based in Washington, has a grant from the National Institute of Corrections in Boulder, Colo., to examine and suggest improvements at 26 facilities this year.
"Our feeling is that we want all the help we can get at this point," detention center spokesman Bruce Orenstein said yesterday. "We feel we're doing all we can do to make this place secure, but we want to call in experts to find out if there's something that we're missing."
Association director Ferris Lucas said yesterday he has not yet received Hogan's request. He said an inspection normally would take three days, and if the request is approved by the National Institute of Corrections, it could be completed within a few weeks.
Nine inmates escaped from the jail on July 7 after they cut through a third-floor window. On Aug. 12 three guards were beaten by six inmates, to the cheers of fellow prisoners. On Aug. 21, nine inmates attempted to escape from the third floor, and sawed through three steel bars, and removed an air conditioner, before they were stopped by sheriff's deputies acting on a tip.