Maine’s County Corrections System Under Review
The county jail system in Maine would be better served by operating as as a planned and coordinated system, with equitable distribution of costs as the Legislature envisioned back in 2008, as opposed to a “confederacy of temporary alliances.”
That according to a commission report turned into the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety,
Maine has sixteen counties and fifteen county jails, with one being shared by Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties. The administration for the inmates and jail personnel represents one the biggest responsibilities of the county Sheriff.
Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty serves as the current President for the Maine Sheriff’s Association and he says one of the greatest challenges facing county Sheriff’s is transitioning into this new coordinated corrections system approach.
“We’re still in transition, and we’ve been in transition for four years,” states Sheriff Liberty. “It’s been a couple hundred years of local jail control and now it’s a shared control so we’re struggling with that.”
Sheriff Liberty says one positive development of the unified system is freezing local property taxes and shifting the cost burden to the state, but that requires a different train of thought.
The commission report to the legislature suggests changing state statutes to give more authority to the state Board of Corrections (BOC).
Sheriff Liberty says in the past it would be voluntary for county administrators to opt out of cooperative bids intended to save money in shared areas like food or medicine services, but the BOC could have the extended authority to mandate such cooperation.
“We need to look holistically at what saves the taxpayers of the state of Maine collectively rather than addressing individual concerns,” says Sheriff Liberty.
Liberty says the general public has a significant role to play in assuring the safe and efficient operation of the state’s unified county jail system too.
“When the budget hearings happen at the county, and at the municipal level, they need to be engaged in the process and be aware of where those dollars go.”
Below is the entire report from the commission to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety,