June 25, 2018
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County commissioners file injunction to prevent closing of Maine prison

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
In this file photo from February 2017, a worker walks toward the main office at Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport. An injunction has been filed to prevent Republican Gov. Paul LePage from taking further steps to close the minimum-security state prison.
The Associated Press
Updated:

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Washington County Commission on Tuesday filed an injunction to prevent Republican Gov. Paul LePage from taking further steps to shutter a minimum-security state prison.

The injunction filed in Kennebec County Superior Court would forbid the state Department of Corrections from taking any additional steps that would hamper the Downeast Correctional Facility’s ability to reopen, Commission Chairman Chris Gardner told The Associated Press.

A judge will hear arguments on Wednesday.

The governor’s office and state Attorney General Janet Mills declined comment.

The governor’s administration on Friday removed inmates from the facility even though it is funded by lawmakers through the summer.

The Washington County Commission has standing to seek an injunction because the prison’s closing would have a “potentially huge impact on the health and well-being of the county,” Gardner said.

“Although we may not agree, we appreciate the governor’s view that he can move prisoners around. But that facility exists in statute, and there’s a question about whether he can close it,” Gardner said. The injunction aims to prevent any further action until “the legislative process works its way out.”

The prison, which has long been on the chopping block, costs about $5 million a year to operate and provides jobs and prison labor to the surrounding community.

Corrections officers traveled to Augusta on Tuesday to voice their displeasure.

“They basically threw us out of our jobs. I think it was a hostile thing to do. He treats us with no respect whatsoever. … The legislative process should have been allowed to continue,” said Brian Mozeliak, of Pembroke, who works at the prison.

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