According to statehouse sources, the governor's task force on prisons will recommend Tuesday to Gov. Harry Hughes that the 1,000-cell prison scheduled for completion in 1987 be located in Somerset County. The governor is likely to follow the recommendation and ask the legislature to approve funding so the construction can begin during fiscal 1984.
The five-member Somerset County commission had asked the task force two weeks ago to consider Somerset as a site because the commission believed the prison would create 500 jobs in the Eastern Shore county, where the unemployment rate is 17.2 percent, more than double the state average of 7.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the state's corrections secretary cautioned a Senate panel today that the state should not go overboard on prison construction.
"I think one prison should suffice for the decade. I think it would be prudent for the state not to overbuild prisons at this time," Thomas Schmidt, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, told the Budget and Taxation Committee.
The state has six prisons under construction or in the planning stages, at a time when the rate that inmates are being put into the state's prisons compared with the number that are being released is leveling off, Schmidt said.
Last June the state was imprisoning about 150 to 200 more persons per month than it was releasing, but he said, "Now it's close to being in equilibrium."
Schmidt said that if the state continues to build prisons, in a few years it could be in the same situation as local jurisdictions with excess schools and declining enrollments.
Sen. John Cade, (R-Anne Arundel), questioned Schmidt's contention.
"One prison won't solve the problem. I think we not only need an additional prison, we need a fourth complex," Cade said. "We'll have to build more than one prison either for expansion or replacement of older facilities and it shouldn't be on any of the four existing complexes" in Jessup, Baltimore and Hagerstown.
There are about 11,000 inmates in facilities built for about 8,500.