A Maryland task force on prisons is expected to recommend Somerset County as the site for a new 1,000-bed prison for men, according to an aide to Gov. Harry R. Hughes. If the task force approves the location, which is supported by Somerset residents, it will be recommended to the governor next week.
Michael F. Canning, the Hughes aide, said Cecil and Caroline counties were also being considered for the $70 million prison, but local support for those sites is not as enthusiastic as in Somerset.
He said unemployment in the Eastern Shore county is high and that residents would welcome the jobs a prison would bring. "We're in an unusual position where people are coming to us and saying, 'We want it.' That's an enlightened position," Canning said.
Like many states, Maryland's prison system is overcrowded. It now houses about 11,000 inmates in a system built for 8,000, and is expected to need space for 12,500 inmates by the end of the decade, Canning said.
Two state facilities are being constructed, a 760-bed medium security prison in Hagerstown and a 250-bed minimum security facility in Baltimore. The legislature also has approved plans for the construction of two more 250-bed jails in Baltimore.