In 1981, a trial was held in connection with a class action lawsuit on behalf of inmates regarding the reported poor conditions which existed in an old Eastern Shore jail and lack of action by county officials. As a result of that trial, a number of the counties in this region, in order to avoid possible further civil litigation, began the planning process of designing and construction of new detention centers. In all but one county at the time, the corrections operations were planned as separate agencies and no longer under the authority of the locally elected sheriff.
In Queen Anne’s County, Sheriff Mel Sewell closed the old Queen Anne’s County Jail following a number of discussions between Tom Rosazza, then the Executive Director of the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners and the late Robert D. Sallitt, County Administrator, due to the inability of the facility to meet standards. All sentenced inmates were transported to other jurisdictions for housing, except for those serving weekend sentences, who were permitted to stay in the old jail.
Planning of the new detention center began in 1983 and there were some obstacles to overcome including the location of the new facility and the appropriate design. After some community opposition to the first proposed site in Centreville, the current location was selected near the edge of the town limits. The design and capacity of the detention center was finally resolved when county officials looked to the county detention facility being built in Somerset County and, with a few structural changes, used a similar blue print to build the new Queen Anne’s County Detention Center. The original design had 40 beds, but it was decided to double the capacity to 80 beds. The plan, upon completion of the building, was to house the Sheriff’s Office, County Communications and the Corrections Department there, but wisely that did not happen. The Sheriff’s Office remained in the old jail location until it was later demolished and a new Emergency Operations Center was constructed not far from its former location.
As the new detention center was on its way to completion, a series of interviews were conducted in the summer of 1987 to select a warden to supervise the new agency. On September 27, 1987 LaMonte Cooke was hired as the county’s first appointed warden and the Queen Anne’s Department of Corrections became the newest county agency. The Queen Anne’s County Detention Center began reclaiming all the sentenced inmates housed in other jurisdictions on April 25, 1988 and officially began its operation.
1990 – The completion of a new 24 bed dormitory style modular unit addition funded through a grant awarded by the U.S. Marshals Service. This increased the capacity of the Detention Center to 104 beds.
2009 – The installation and completion of a second modular housing unit was the second expansion to the facility. This included at 24 bed male dormitory and a 20 bed female unit which have full functioning cells. The construction of the component sections started on a site in Pennsylvania in the later part of 2008 and delivered to Queen Anne’s in late April of 2009 for completion of the project. The unit was in operation by September. This increased the capacity of the facility to the current 148 beds.
2011 – Completion of solar panel installation at the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center in a project by the Queen Anne’s County Department of Public works under a block grant from the Maryland Energy Administration, which totaled $282,692. This was part of the County’s mission to reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs. The Detention Center along with two other agencies were designated for this special project.
2011 – 2014 – The Queen Anne’s County RESET Program was highlighted in two separate episodes of the A&E Network program Beyond Scared Straight during this period. Our partnering with the Court, the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Office of the Sheriff, Parole and Probation and a local funeral service, it was a unique program in certain ways different from others represented on the show.