With a new governor and head of the state prison system in place, the administration in Augusta wants to re-establish a correctional facility in Washington County.
But it may not result in inmates and staff returning to Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport. Community leaders in the county have argued for years against shutting it down and, since former Gov. Paul LePage closed it last summer, have been lobbying to have it reopened.
The prison once housed 150 inmates and employed approximately 70 people, and it had been targeted for closure repeatedly by state officials looking to consolidate the statewide prison system. Each time, political and business leaders in Washington County argued against it, saying the direct jobs it provided and the steady workforce that area employers could tap into by participating in the prison’s work release program were too valuable to discard.
Gov. Janet Mills and Randall Liberty, whom she appointed earlier this year to run the state prison system, have said they support opening a new pre-release center in the Machias area, so inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences can begin making the adjustment to out-of-prison life by participating in work-release programs in Washington County. The center would have room for up to 50 inmates and would employ 15 people.
Liberty said last week that at the pre-release center, inmates could receive counseling and job training to help make sure they abide by the law once they get out. He wants them to get jobs that they can keep after they are released so they can live in Washington County as private citizens.
“It’s important to me to establish a pre-release center in Washington County,” Liberty said, adding that it would be a minimum-security, unfenced facility. “My job is to get these guys jobs so they can support their families.”
A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....
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