BANGOR, Maine — After more than five years on the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center campus, the state’s Women’s Reentry Center is moving south to the York County Jail in Alfred.
The center’s mission is to help female inmates prepare for life outside prison walls. Since it opened in November 2007, the center has been operated by Volunteers of America Northern New England through a contract with the Maine Department of Corrections.
That contract has ended and the Corrections Department is taking over the management and operation of the center, Judy Plummer, the department’s public affairs coordinator and director of special projects, said Thursday.
The transition is scheduled to take place by July 1, she said.
Plummer said Thursday that the Bangor site houses 32 women but that capacity will more than double when the program moves to the York County Jail. She said the new location will accommodate 67 women if they are double-bunked in their rooms.
The decision to bring the women’s re-entry program under the Corrections Department’s purview reportedly was an effort to obtain direct oversight over the program and improve data collection.
It was not immediately clear if relocating the program will result in cost savings for the state, Plummer said.
“We certainly don’t anticipate it will increase,” she said, adding that increasing the center’s capacity will free up beds elsewhere in the state correctional system.
Plummer also noted that work opportunities for women in the program were relatively hard to come by in Greater Bangor and that corrections officials hoped there will be more in southern Maine.
Volunteers of America Northern New England has been notified of the change, Glenn Michaels, the organization’s director of marketing, communications and community engagement, said Thursday.
“This decision was made by the [Department of Corrections] to allow the program to be managed within the department,” he said. “Volunteers of America is working closely with the [department] and everyone involved to ensure that the transition is a smooth one and that the quality of services for these women remains high.”
Plummer and Michaels both confirmed that the change will result in the layoff of Volunteers of America employees in Bangor, but neither had an exact number late Thursday afternoon.
Plummer said that positions have been posted for the new unit.
In anticipation of taking over the women’s re-entry program, the state has created a new position called “director of women’s services.” The new director will manage the department’s female prisoner population at both Maine Correctional Center in South Windham and the Women’s Reentry Center.
Though some needs will be met by existing workers at the York County lockup, the state likely will need to add a unit manager, caseworker, community program coordinator, vocational officer, commanding officer and office associate.
Women prisoners with three years or less left on their sentences and who meet the requirements of minimum or community custody are eligible for admission to the center and its programs.
“Programs proven to work with female offender populations will be offered in York County, as well as work release opportunities for those with one year left to serve left before their scheduled release,” Plummer said in a news release announcing the center’s move.