Clarksburg residents won't forget this tale about jail
Jan. 19, 2000

by Effie Bathen

Staff Writer

Clarksburg jail-watchers are likely to get a few chuckles from Kensington landscaper Wayne Goldstein's "mockumentary."

Montgomery Community Television, the county's public access cable channel, is showing the film, "Clarksburg Jail: Part 1 -- Education," produced at a cost of $500.

In it, Goldstein takes a caustic 40-minute look at the much-debated $85 million Montgomery County Correctional Facility project.

Construction is already under way, but Goldstein says he still wants people to learn more about how the project came about and why the money may have been better spent on building schools.

Goldstein may be remembered from a recent upcounty town hall meeting as the man in a whimsical wizard's hat.

In his film, Goldstein uses the wizard garb and a glowing crystal ball to poke fun at county leaders who relied on projections that the Rockville detention facility soon would be bursting at its seams.

Goldstein, 49, said he does not consider himself a community activist nor, despite the pointy hat, is he a kook.

He made the film, he said, because "I just made a leap of faith that it would ring true."

He may have succeeded -- at least in part. During a number of private viewings, including one that was held in conjunction with a Thanksgiving dinner, people seemed responsive, he said.

"People laughed where they were supposed to laugh, and they became angry and amazed where they were supposed to," he said.

As Goldstein tells it, he became interested in community issues a couple of years ago when speed bumps began to intrude into his life.

He acted then by stationing himself -- more appropriately attired with his usual straw hat -- alongside one particularly tall speed bump.

He thought that he would be able to fill an antibump petition with about 100 signatures. Instead, he was surprised to find that he had struck a chord with thousands of similarly shaken drivers and collected 2,500.

Unfortunately for him, the speed bumps stayed. But so did a new resolve to keep fellow Montgomerians informed about dastardly decisions that their elected officials can sometimes make, he said.

Later, he said, the "secret demolition" of the armory in Silver Spring that surprised the most informed residents furthered his belief that he needed to take definitive action.

Goldstein's film career was launched after he read about a basic filmmaking course offered by MCT. What started out as a four-minute class project ended up with more than 15 hours of interviews and standup shots of the producer in front of overcrowded schools.

He decided to focus on the jail issue after reading a piece by Steve Howie, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association, who actively opposed the construction project.

Aside from a flood of cost comparisons, jail house bed numbers and school overcrowding statistics, Goldstein's film also takes a sarcastic look at the County Council members who voted to support building the new detention center in rural Clarksburg.

Goldstein joins the critics who argued that the Rockville detention center was more than adequate to serve the county's needs.

Goldstein juxtaposes a TV clip of now President Michael L. Subin (D-At large) of Gaithersburg bemoaning how the Rockville jail is woefully inadequate with a report by the American Correctional Association giving the Rockville center a near-perfect accreditation rating.

Another clip shows a figure stealthily slipping out of the council room as Blair G. Ewing (D-At large) of Silver Spring, and a long-time education advocate, attempted to reopen the debate last year.

The councilman, whose face is never shown, is Silver Spring's Derick P. Berlage (D-Dist. 5), Goldstein tells viewers.

Many county and school leaders have not seen the film, they said, or have chosen to ignore it.

Subin said he did not participate in the film's making, but defended the filmmaker's right to share an opposing view.

Stuart Garfinkle, program manager for the public access cable television station in Rockville, said it is hard to judge how viewers are responding to the Goldstein film. Usually people who get very upset call, he said. And so far, he has not received any complaints.