Waldo County’s long-term jail inmates — including Sharon and Julio Carrillo, who are awaiting trial on charges related to the death of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy — will be on the move soon to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.
That’s because Waldo County commissioners balked this spring at the cost of renewing their contract with Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset and instead decided to sign a new three-year deal with Somerset County that will start on July 1. The move will save Waldo County taxpayers about $200,000 a year, according to Commissioner Bill Shorey.
“It’s an upside for the county, because we’re saving a lot of money,” he said. “I think it’s going to work rather well, and taxpayers will be happy.”
Waldo County has had to find a place for its jail inmates to live for about 10 years, since the old Waldo County Jail closed in order to become the Maine Coastal Regional Re-entry Center. The building is still a 72-hour hold facility, meaning that after suspects are arrested, arraigned and processed, they need to be moved to a different jail to either await trial or, if sentenced, to serve their time.
Waldo County has been paying about $1 million per year to house up to 40 inmates a day at Two Bridges.
But with new District Attorney Natasha Irving’s goal of increasing the use of restorative justice and reducing the practice of putting people in jail for nonviolent offenses, Shorey said that he expects the numbers of Waldo County inmates to drop significantly. This week, just 22 inmates from Waldo County were being held at the Wiscasset facility.
He and other county officials wanted to change the contract to reflect that decrease, and proposed to Two Bridges to lease 35 beds for inmates, down from 40.
“They didn’t want to go [down],” he said. “Eventually, it turned into a very expensive deal.”
When Waldo County officials heard that Somerset County offered a contract that would accept up to 35 inmates a day for $830,875 annually, it was an easy decision, he said. The new daily rate Waldo County will pay is $65 per day for 35 inmates. The rate that had initially been offered by Two Bridges was $70.55 per day for 40 inmates for an annual cost of $1,030,000, according to the Waldo County finance director.
“Like all shoppers, you’re going to price-check,” Shorey said.
The Somerset County Jail is 52 miles from the Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast, where most inmates would need to make court appearances, and which is actually a couple of miles closer than Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. The East Madison facility opened in 2008, meaning that inmates would no longer be housed in the century-old Skowhegan jail. It can hold up to 234 people who are divided among five security categories: special management, medium, minimum, work release and trustees.
But the hour-plus drive from Waldo County to the new location is still concerning to Joseph Jackson, the executive director of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition.
“Any time you move prisoners away from their families, especially long distance, it puts a real strain on family support in the community,” he said. “Particularly community support, which those folks really rely on. For the most part, folks locked up in county jail have not been found guilty of a crime. Many of them are there because they cannot make bail.”
He said that the majority of people who find themselves in jail come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and their family members may not have the time or the means to travel to see them.
“With long distance, the farther it is away, the bigger the burden,” Jackson said.