Prince George's County Council member James Herl introduced a bill yesterday that would establish a weekend jail for drunk drivers. The facility, which would emphasize counseling, apparently would be the first of its kind in the state.
Herl said the weekend facility, which could hold up to 30 persons, was the chief recommendation of a task force on drunk driving on which he served. Sheriff James Aluisi was the chairman and other members included legislators, police officers, judges and citizen activists.
The facility was proposed to separate drunk drivers from other inmates at the county's severely overcrowded Detention Center, while responding to the public demand for stiffer punishment of these offenders. Because motorists sentenced to the special jail could continue to work during the week, they would also be fined, as a way of defraying costs of the jail.
County Executive Parris Glendening and other council members have supported the idea, but have not specifically endorsed Herl's proposal.
The General Assembly earlier this year passed a bill that permits the county to sell a $500,000 bond to renovate a structure for the facility. No site has been selected, but the task force suggested using a building to be vacated this year by the county's school administration, behind the courthouse in Upper Marlboro.
The facility would be run by either the sheriff's department or the county's Department of Corrections would run the facility. Herl's bill would give that authority to the sheriff.
"This bill recognizes that this is a valuable facility and we should not waste any time moving forward with it," Herl said. "I'm not hung up over whether it's going to be the sheriff or corrections . . . . I do recognize that the Department of Corrections has a lot of problems.
There's an acting director over there, he's trying to respond to problems raised in an audit, he's trying to comply with a consent decree that we've been under. The one thing he cannot handle is a new responsibility."