Breaking News
More () »

Maine lawmakers hear hours of testimony on parole bill

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard more than six hours of testimony on the bill to reestablish parole.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is one of the 16 states that abolished parole about five decades ago. Prison reform advocates and people who have been incarcerated themselves are now saying it's time to bring it back so people can be better prepared to re-enter society. 

Senator Pinny Beebe-Center, D-Knox, is proposing a bill to further the effort and she's not alone. Her bill, LD 178 is co-sponsored by 10 bipartisan lawmakers.

On Monday, the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee heard hours of testimony from those in favor of the senator's bill

"Parole is an opportunity for someone to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community," Dr. Arthur Jones said.

Jones works with the group, Parole-4-Maine and has served on parole boards in New Jersey and Rhode Island before retiring to Maine. He said parole motivates people who are incarcerated.

"They have less disciplinary infractions, they're more inclined to get involved with programs," Jones said.

Maine Department of Corrections commissioner Randy Liberty said the DOC already has plenty of programs in place to support incarcerated Mainers, including substance abuse programs, supervised release, and education programs.

"We currently have more than 90 residents who are in our care who have been released into the community. We have about a 77 percent success rate so I think the program we have works well, without adding additional tax dollars to the tax burden," Liberty said.

He said that if this bill becomes law, the state would have to hire more probation officers and a board which would cost Mainers more in taxes.

Courtney Gary-Allen with the recovery advocacy project agreed with Liberty that the department is making strides with what's offered to incarcerated people, but she said there's still more to do.

"Parole is just one more way that we can get people back into our community and begin to become productive members of our society," she said.

Governor Janet Mills said she opposes parole.

In a statement last week, her office said the state already has a supervised release program and added "While the Governor supports criminal justice reform efforts that advance the rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals, consistent with their sentences as decided by a judge, she is troubled by the lack of consideration given to victims of these crimes and their families."

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

For the latest breaking news, weather, and traffic alerts, download the NEWS CENTER Maine mobile app.

Before You Leave, Check This Out