PRINCESS ANNE — A volunteer chaplain at the Somerset County Detention Center asked the County Commissioners to consider making changes that will lower the temperature inside inmate cells.
The Rev. Charles Bagley, who retired after 30 years in corrections, said it’s important to consider the way inmates are housed in a cell made of steel and concrete. Society takes a dim view of pets and especially children being left in an automobile on a hot day, he said, but for inmates, "it’s just like being in a bank vault" when the doors are closed.
He recommended air-handlers for each pod as cells do not have electrical outlets for individual units. As for cell doors, he suggested testing to see if a stainless steel mesh instead of solid glass improves circulation.
Without making changes, he said, climate change will require more times when doors are open and inmates occupy the pods in a dormitory type setting, and that’s a safety and security problem.
Jails and prisons "seldom get any attention until something tragic happens," Rev. Bagley said, asking if any of the federal coronavirus pandemic funding might be applicable.
Although the County Commissioners made no decisions, they are reviewing ways to spend $4,968,065 from the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Public health and certain infrastructure improvements are allowable expenditures and $10,000 is proposed for a cleaning of the jail’s HVAC system and ducts, which was last done around nine years ago.
There is also a proposal for an $11,000 engineering study for cell block air-conditioning and ventilation upgrades. With that information bids could be solicited for a comprehensive HVAC replacement, which is also an approved ARP expense.