After years of debate, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officials are reviving the idea of building a federal detention center for prisoners from Maryland, reports the Baltimore Sun. The U.S. Marshals Service does not have a jail of its own in Maryland to house inmates awaiting trial, so beds have to be found daily in jails and prisons in three states for about 500 federal prisoners from Maryland. “We’re the largest metropolitan area in the country without a dedicated federal detention space,” said a deputy marshal.
The number of prisoners locked up on federal charges in Maryland has doubled during the past eight years, officials said. A new program by the U.S. attorney to target more offenders for gun crimes is expected to push the number even higher. At the same time, crowding has forced local jails to restrict the number of federal prisoners they agree to put up. “The bottom line is, you’re paying for motel space for individuals when you know you’re going to have to house 500 people a day,” said Cy Smith, the Baltimore attorney leading the effort on behalf of the bar association. “A new prison to house about 625 inmates would cost an estimated $68 million in federal funds to build, Smith said. The lack of a federal detention center means that deputy marshals must transport dozens of prisoners in vans to and from the federal courthouses in Baltimore and Greenbelt.