Leonardtown, MD — The St. Mary’s County Detention Center needs “a major renovation and addition.” That’s the conclusion of a report from the St. Mary’s County Grand Jury issued March 2 at the conclusion of the September term. The county’s Capital Improvement Plan continues to have a renovation of the existing facility instead of an expansion, although the commissioners have conceded that an expansion is needed eventually.

The grand jurors toured the jail Feb. 4 and noted that the officers there “appear to be very well-organized, hardworking, team-oriented, dedicated and cognizant of the welfare of both the community and the inmates.” But they concluded; “It is clear that the detention center has become more than just a jail because it now provides several support services to inmates including mental health services, educational opportunities, and other social services. The detention center has significantly outgrown its current space. A renovation may address issues such as air conditioning but is not adequate enough to address the other major issues such as overcrowding, safety of the correctional officers and the need for additional space.”

During the inspection the grand jurors noted “the quarters for the inmates (double bunked in most instances) and especially the officers were extremely tight. Offices were crammed into extremely tight spaces. It is unacceptable that officers have to convert storage closets to offices. We observed that literally every space of the building is being utilized to the greatest extent.”

The jurors said they were “shocked” to find the facility wasn’t air conditioned. The day that they visited was cold outside but “very warm inside,” they reported. Air conditioning is one of the components of the approved renovation plan for the existing facility.

The report also calls for updated technology, a designated drug testing room, additional locker rooms and restrooms for staff, additional space for healthcare and learning services, and additional space and appliances for the laundry room.
In conclusion the report says, “As a Grand Jury, we strongly recommend that any person who opposes or thwarts the efforts of a major renovation and addition to the detention center visit the facility so that they may experience firsthand the environment the staff must endure any day. In addition, the Grand Jury strongly recommends significant salary increases for our police officers.”

During their six-month tenure the grand jury reports they “processed numerous indictments regarding controlled substance possession/distribution, burglary and theft, assault, sexual child abuse and fraud charges. The majority of the indictments presented to this Grand Jury were for possession of distribution of controlled substances.”

The grand jurors recommend “harsher penalties for repeat offenders. Current penalties and sentences are just not deterring individuals from repeating the same offenses.”

The report gives a pat on the back to the work being done by the State’s Attorney’s Office, and the sheriff’s department and Maryland State Police officers.

Contact Dick Myers at news@thebaynet.com