Baltimore County Now
Jim O’Neill, Director
Baltimore County Department of Corrections
As I come to the end of my tenure as the Director of theBaltimore County Department of Corrections, I would like to share some observations.
Public safety is truly a top priority in Baltimore County and citizens should know that they are definitely getting their “bang for the buck” in Corrections. Nowadays, a detention center is much more than “three hots and a cot,” (aka three hot meals and a cot to sleep on). It is a closely regulated, high-tech, high-security facility that is a combination dormitory, residential drug treatment facility, cafeteria, school, job training center, gym, medical and mental health center and much more.
We operate the Baltimore County Detention Center with an average daily population of 1,200 inmates for a very cost-effective outlay of $35 million annually. When you compare this amount to other large Maryland jurisdictions with similar or smaller inmate populations, it is quite evident that the professional men and women who operate our jail are doing things right.
Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties have inmate populations equal or less than ours, but they each have annual budgets in excess of $60 million. Your math is correct, they are spending nearly double what we spend in Baltimore County. Anne Arundel County, which has 800 inmates but operates two jail sites, has an annual budget of $42 million. When we consolidated the County’s two correctional facilities under one roof, we achieved significant cost savings through economies of scale – and increased security and safety for staff and inmates. The consolidation of the two facilities and the construction of Towson’s state-of-the-art correctional center continues to make me very proud of what we have accomplished together.
We work hard every day to offer inmates opportunities to address the issues that brought them into the criminal justice system and prepare them for release in a manner that reduces the likelihood of them re-offending. We ensure that every inmate’s Constitutional rights are protected, but we run a tight ship and constantly seek the most efficient and cost-effective ways of doing business. Our automated jail management system maximizes the benefits of technology to improve jail operations. Our secure home detention monitoring system and video bail review program enhances public safety and increases efficiencies across the board.
I am extremely proud of the exceptional men and women who operate our jail. They are the unsung heroes of our criminal justice system working tirelessly behind these walls to ensure the operation of a top-notch institution. Their talents have allowed us to maintain a philosophy of continuous improvement. I would be remiss if I did not thank County Executives Kamenetz, Smith and Ruppersberger for their courage and support over the years. Due to their foresight and commitment, Baltimore County is well positioned to provide for public safety in the correctional realm for many years.
The past 12 years have been the most rewarding of my 38 years as a corrections professional due to the efforts of our staff, the administrative and council support, and that of our citizens. I would like to add that working with my fellow department heads has been productive from my first day, which benefits county residents immensely. We are well positioned to continue evolving, and I will be keeping close tabs on events from my golf cart or fishing boat!