Downeast Correctional Reopens In Minimum Capacity
Governor Paul LePage has reopened the Downeast Correctional Facility, in compliance with a court order, but in a minimum capacity.
The Machiasport prison has been at the center of controversy since Department of Corrections officers and State Police Troopers entered the facility in the middle of a February night and transported its prisoners to Charleston. Staff members were suddenly put on administrative leave and area businesses that employed work-release prisoners were left short-staffed, without any prior notice.
A judge last week ruled that the Governor doesn't have the authority to close a prison, without legislative approval. The same ruling determined that the Department of Corrections would also need the approval of lawmakers before shuttering any prison. The injunction was sought by Maine's Attorney General, the Washington County Commission, and union representatives.
So, on Monday, LePage sent a letter saying that Downeast Correctional will operate with 'minimal staffing and a minimal number of inmates.' He says he spoke with Commissioner Fitzpatrick, who said he'll operate the facility in the most 'fiscally responsible manner.' Over the next few months, it goes on to say, the Department of Corrections will continue preparations to close the facility, once its funding expires in June. He says the low staffing and inmate population will comply with the judge's order, while still saving the taxpayers' money.
Attorneys representing the employees told WABI-TV that the move shouldn't be considered compliance, stating that parties in a legal matter aren't allowed to 'comply a little bit' with a court order. They say the issue isn't over, as they will follow up with a judge.