WARREN, Maine — A three-day lockdown at the Maine State Prison ended Thursday evening.
The prison had been in a lockdown since Tuesday as officials searched the facility cell by cell to find drugs, DVDs and other contraband.
This was a routine search that was not spurred by any recent activity, according to Maine Department of Corrections Associate Commissioner Jody L. Breton. The prison was returning to normal operation Thursday evening, she said.
Few knives and drugs were found, Breton said, but many inmates had excess allowable items, which were confiscated.
“For instance, if it says they can have one mattress and they have two, we remove one,” Breton said Thursday.
Under previous commissioners, Breton said the prison seldom did these types of searches.
“We plan to do this annually,” Breton said. “It’s good practice to know what’s in your facility walls. It just makes sense.”
Because all the prisoners are locked in their cells and cannot wander the building, many prison staff members had free time. The prison is using this extra time for training, including in communication, such as how to calm inmates and keep situations from escalating.
A representative of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition said Thursday that searches such as these only should be done with cause — not just as a routine procedure. Judy Garvey, a member of the coalition, said she suspects there are underlying reasons the prison is searching the cells that they just won’t publicize.
“We really wouldn’t want to see this as a regular thing. A lockdown is something that should happen in a few hours. A whole prison for three days? It’s unprecedented in Maine State Prison. [Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition] members would think there is more going on with this than we know about. It’s not routine and I’d be surprised if it were an annual practice,” Garvey said.