Saturday, February 10, 2018

Governor Moves to Empty Prison as Lawmakers Mull Its Future 

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage moved Friday to empty a minimum security prison as Maine lawmakers debated the future of the facility, which costs $5 million per year to run.
Lawmakers fought LePage's moves last year to close Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, which ended up receiving funding through June of this year. But LePage spokesman Peter Steele said that the 63-year-old Washington County facility's 149 beds will no longer be needed as of March 31.
AFSCME Council 93 representative Jim Mackie said about 50 prison staffers were placed on administrative leave and received layoff notices effective early March. On Friday, state police and corrections employees arrived at the facility without notice and transferred its inmates to the 374-bed Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston, according to Mackie.
Downeast Correctional Facility recently housed about 60 state inmates, while Mountain View Correctional Facility housed nearly 360, according to Department of Corrections figures.
"This governor with a snap of his fingers has just pulled the rug out from 51 employees who work at this place, and the whole of Washington County," said Mackie, who added that surrounding communities benefit from jobs and free prison labor. "He is thumbing his nose at the Legislature and basically saying, 'Go ahead and fund the facilities, there won't be anybody there.'"
Steele said it's a management question, not a legislative matter. He said LePage — who has long pushed to close Downeast — doesn't believe a prison should be a region's economic engine.

 

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