August 18, 2019
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How a new warden wants to change things at the Maine State Prison

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
The Maine State Prison in Warren as pictured in this April 5, 2017, file photo.

Maine Department of Corrections officials have tapped a Maine State Prison deputy warden with a background in probation and prison programming to lead the state’s largest correctional facility.

Matthew Magnusson assumed his new role as warden of the Maine State Prison in Warren last week after serving as the deputy warden of programming at the prison since 2017. Magnusson, 39, replaces the previous warden, Randall Liberty, who is now the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections.

In a nationwide search, Maine corrections officials received 12 applicants, including several applications from DOC staff, Liberty said. He said Magnusson was chosen because of his background in identifying and providing programming to address the reasons why inmates find themselves in custody.

Liberty has said one of his main goals as the leader of Maine’s prison system is reducing recidivism through increasing the educational, vocational, mental health and substance abuse programs available to inmates while they are incarcerated. Liberty said Magnusson’s promotion to warden of the state’s largest prison is in “perfect alignment” with that goal.

“He has the right balance between programming and security,” Liberty said. “We can warehouse people and put them in a secure facility and not let them out much. Or you can put people to work resolving their issues. He does a great job striking that balance.”

As Maine State Prison warden, Magnusson will oversee about 1,000 inmates at the maximum-security facility and about 400 employees.

Prior to assuming the role of deputy warden, Magnusson worked as a probation officer for about 10 years in the midcoast area before being promoted to a regional correctional manager in 2014. In that role he oversaw probation officers in Hancock, Knox and Waldo counties.

Magnusson began his career in corrections in 2003, when he was a juvenile program worker at the Mountainview Youth Development Center, which is now an adult correctional facility.

Magnusson, a Thomaston native, is the son of former Corrections Commissioner Martin Magnusson, who also served as warden of the Maine State Prison from 1982 to 1996, when the prison was located in Thomaston.

Despite growing up in the warden’s house on the grounds of the old Maine State Prison facility, Magnusson said he never saw himself pursuing a career in corrections. In college, Magnusson studied finance and economics. But upon graduating, the economy had taken a downturn and Magnusson instead pursued a job opportunity in corrections.

Magnusson believes his background in probation will help him as warden, having seen how inmates struggle upon release from custody.

“For 12 years, I dealt with people who were being released straight from county jails and DOC facilities,” he said. “Seeing the areas where they struggled, and knowing things we may be able to provide to them a little earlier in their sentence, could make a huge difference in their reentry.”

With Liberty’s goal to lead the corrections department in the direction of preparing inmates for re-entry through educational and vocational programming, Magnusson said he intends to explore and focus more resources on how the Maine State Prison can expand the programs it offers.



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