AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The LePage administration has reportedly decided to close the small state prison facility in Washington County, even though Legislators have said they want to keep it open.
The Downeast Correctional Facility in Bucks Harbor, near Machias, is a minimum security prison with about 100 inmates and a staff of 46.
Reports of the closing and layoff of workers began circulating Friday morning. The Bangor Daily News then quoted the Maine Corrections Commissioner saying the facility will be closed. That report was confirmed by the Senate Republican office, which issued a press release later in the morning. It states that the Governor intends to transfer, “a large number of prisoners from the minimum security prison to maximum security facilities and is rumored to be commuting the sentences of 75 prisoners.”
Governor LePage made closing that prison part of his proposed new state budget, intending to shut it down by the end of June. Those inmates would presumably be transferred to the Maine Corrections Facility in Windham, which is undergoing major renovation.
However, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee voted against the closing in march, and said funding for the Downeast Facility should be continued in the new budget.
That budget isn’t complete yet.
The Press release from Senate Republicans also questions whether the Governor has the authority to shut the prison down on his own.
Closing the prison will have a big economic impact on Washington County, because of the state jobs and because inmates at the prison routinely work for local businesses, which have said they have difficulty finding enough workers.