Panel to hear of prison cost-saving plans

Posted March 23, 2009, at 11:16 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

CHARLESTON, Maine — The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee today will review a cost-savings proposal to protect the operation of the Charleston Correctional Facility and other Maine prisons for at least another two years starting July 1.

The Department of Corrections has come up with some “pretty innovative conservation and cost-reduction measures” to reduce the budget in an effort to keep the Charleston facility, as well as the Bolduc Minimum Security Unit in Warren, the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, and the Maine Correction Center in Windham in operation for the next biennium, said Denise Lord, deputy commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

“We really scraped to find savings,” Lord said Monday. Every facility was asked to find efficiencies to spare their operations, she said.

In addition to scaling back on the boarding of prisoners in county jails and eliminating out-of-state placement, corrections officials have offered to reduce the number of telephone lines, change the wattage of light bulbs, install light sensors, rewire bathroom fans so they come on only when the lights are turned on and to take ad-vantage of sales available on food purchases, among other changes.

In Charleston’s case, the minimum-security prison will be heated around the clock by a wood boiler using wood harvested by inmates. Corrections employees have offered to volunteer their time to fill the boiler during the third shift.

“We looked under rocks that we usually don’t look under,” Eric Hansen, superintendent of the Charleston facility, said Monday.

Charleston has been one of the more efficient prisons in the state, but Hansen said, “We found some creative ways to find efficiencies and save jobs.”

Through its restitution projects, the Charleston facility saves communities in the region hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of labor, according to Hansen. The inmates provide brush cutting, painting, renovations and grounds work, to name a few of the services offered.

dianabdn@myfairpoint.net

876-4579

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