Cecil County to Lose State Jail Aid; Higher Costs to County But Some Commish Want More Budget Cuts

March 8, 2011

Cecil County is about to lose key state funds to support part of its jail operations, leaving open the prospect that the county could be forced to pick up about $1 million a year in operating costs for the facility.

Part of the problem was disclosed Tuesday during a work session of the Cecil County Commissioners, at which there was a brief discussion of an exchange of letters involving the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the county Sheriff’s Department, which operates the jail.

A letter from the state warned that the current Fiscal Year 2011 state budget only allocated $714,480 to support prisoners assigned to the Community Adult Rehabilitation Center (CARC) program at the Cecil County jail and funds were rapidly running out, with the expectation that no more state aid would be available to the county in the next few months. Furthermore, the letter– signed by Ernest Eley, Jr., deputy director of special programs for the Division of Parole and Probation—warned that there would be no further state money forthcoming in the future.

The fiscal warning from the state comes at a time when some County Commissioners are proposing budget cuts of $3.2 million for public safety, which includes the county Sheriff’s Department, in the upcoming Fiscal 2012 budget year.

A Cecil Times inquiry found that the state is looking to shut down financial support for community-based correctional programs, despite the fact that the state previously endorsed that approach dating back to 1983. Instead, the state is looking to ship local offenders to state-operated prisons, although if a local court sentences a defendant to a local work-release option, the county jail would be forced to absorb the costs.

A summary of the thinking of the General Assembly on the issue last year can be found here:


Last year, the state was trying to cut its expenditures for local CARC inmates, but Del. David Rudolph (D-34B) won a one-year reprieve in the General Assembly, according to letters supplied to the County Commissioners.

At the time Cecil County got its FY11 reprieve, the General Assembly cited concerns about overcrowding at the detention center. The legislature approved a budget amendment providing $714,480 for the Cecil County CARC program in the current fiscal year, limiting the funds to support “locally sentenced” prisoners.

The General Assembly emphasized that its intent was to require state-sentenced inmates to be transferred to state prisons operated by the state Department of Corrections. The state budget document also declared that FY11 would be “the final year that state funding is provided to support CARC operations.”

Major Jeffrey D. Clower, Director of Community Corrections for the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department, explained in an interview with Cecil Times that Cecil County had been authorized in past years to receive as much as $1.2 million in CARC support payments. Since costs are figured on a per diem basis, depending upon the inmate population each month, the county usually did not receive that top ceiling amount.

But with the sharply reduced state aid in the current budget year, he calculated that the state aid would run out by the end of March, leaving the county to pick up the costs for the remaining three months of the fiscal year. Based upon recent monthly allocations of state CARC aid to the county, those costs to the county could amount to at least $210,000.

Going forward, Cecil County will still end up having responsibility for housing the same prisoners, Major Clower said, since the local courts routinely sentence defendants to county work-release programs. The 64 beds currently listed as CARC units will be re-classified as Cecil County work release inmates. “It’s been our understanding that this was it,” he said, about how long the county could expect to get any state aid.

That means that the county will have the responsibility to pay for housing and supervising those inmates without any state financial support. Based upon the current state aid, and the anticipated shortfall for the remaining months of the current fiscal year, that means nearly $1 million in additional costs that will have to be borne by the Cecil County local budget.

Those additional costs come at a time when two county commissioners, James Mullin (R-1st) and Michael Dunn (R-3rd) have proposed $3.2 million in budget cuts to public safety—which includes operations of the Sheriff’s Department– in the upcoming Fiscal 2012 budget.

Major Clewer said that the Sheriff’s Department would figure the increased costs into its FY 12 budget request to the county.

During Tuesday’s County Commissioners work session, Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) raised concerns about the issue and inquired if there might be something that could be done.

County Administrator Al Wein said that he was working on the problem and hoped that there might be some legislative amendments put forward in the General Assembly in the next few months to address the issue.

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One Response to Cecil County to Lose State Jail Aid; Higher Costs to County But Some Commish Want More Budget Cuts

  1. Bob Amato on March 9, 2011 at 8:57 am

    There are many aspects to this news. Judges will be unable to include work release in sentences so that locals will be unable to maintain their current job or seek a new one. If that person is the family breadwinner, they will be forced to seek public assistance. The cost to the state will dwarf savings in the CARC program.

    Sadly, there are no cuts to hand-out programs for O’Malley’s “New Americans” (formerly known as illegal aliens). Sadly, there is a maximum push for O’Malley’s costly and inefficient Green programs. As a “Used American” I am tired of my tax payments being sent to Baltimore City, PG County, and other nests of reliable parasitic voters.

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