May 07, 2021

Vote `yes’ on Maine prison bond

There are some facts that you should consider as to the urgent need to vote “yes” on the prison bond.

The 1990 prison bond represents a much more balanced, less costly approach than the 1989 prison bond. The 1989 bond would have provided 200 maximum-security beds in South Warren at a cost of $35 million.

The 1990 bond will provide a total of 330 beds for the Department of Corrections at a cost of $20 million — a dire need at a great cost reduction.

This prison bond would provide:

100 maximum-security beds at South Warren

50 beds at the already established Downeast Correctional Facility

two diversion/restitution centers — one in Androscoggin County and one in Penobscot county

a pre-release facility in York County or Cumberland county; and a women’s unit at Central Maine Pre-Release Center in Hallowell.

The longer the delay, the greater we pay.

Maine’s prison overcrowding crisis within its correctional facilities has become much more critical since the bond of 1989. Currently, the Department of Corrections has 1,100 beds available and a prison population in excess of 1,600 prisoners.

Population projections indicate that if construction is not started immediately, along with other diversion and sentencing alternatives, the Department of Corrections will have 900 more prisoners than they have space for in 1995. We must start to build now in order to be prepared for the continued increases in the short span of years forecasted.

Today’s emotionalism ignores citizens’ role in the safety of all Maine people, the corrections officers and the welfare of the incarcerated.

We, as citizens, are faced with a great dilemma: The National Civil Liberties Union and the Maine Civil Liberties Union have informed the Department of Corrections that they may initiate a class-action lawsuit against the Maine prison system, which, in turn, could be much more costly than the bond that is being requested, and mandate the release of serious offenders.

Additionally and importantly, as the overcrowding problem deepens, public safety, the correctional staff’s safey, and inmate welfare is being placed in more jeopardy on a daily basis.

It was a pleasure to attend both the Joint Select Committee on Corrections and the Appropriations Committee meeting and work sessions, and it was gratifying to observe bipartisanship in action. I must emphatically state that the whole series of debates was an outstanding display of bipartisanship and a benefit for all of the citizens of this great state.

The 1990 bond is an innovative approach which has been endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans and by both gubernatorial candidates. This, too, is a plus, but more importantly, greatly emphasizes the importance of the prison bond — now!

This may be Maine’s last chance to deal with and solve the corrections crisis within our state and avoid extremely costly federal mandates, and potential loss of life that has occurred throughout the country.

As former chairman of the Board of Visitors at the Maine State Prison, I’ve had full view of the critical situation, and have worked on this corrections issue from 1983 to 1990. I have seen it, as previously stated, first hand, and cannot urge you strongly enough to please get out and vote “yes” on the 1990 prison bond, on Nov. 6.

Daniel P. McGuirl is the former chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Maine State Prison.

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