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Lawmakers push to destigmatize Maine prison system

A bill making its way through the Legislature is aimed at normalizing and destigmatizing being incarcerated.

MAINE, USA — The Maine Department of Corrections is actively working to destigmatize incarcerated people, and now the Legislature is following suit.

A bill working its way through the Legislature would rewrite some of the state's laws referring to people who are in jail.

"It very closely models what the Department of Corrections has been doing in their department," Courtney Allen, an advocate for the bill and substance abuse disorder treatment, said. 

She added that the justice system adds to the stigma surrounding people who committed crimes or suffered from substance abuse disorder.

"The laws and policies that we put in place are discriminating against people who have active substance use disorder," Allen said.

This bill is being sponsored by Rep. Bill Pluecker, I-Warren. He said the justice system's goal is to rehab people and get them back out into our communities.

"If we continue to label them in these ways, it goes against that ultimate aim of our system," he added.

A few months ago, NEWS CENTER Maine took a closer look at changes the Department of Corrections is making. That includes changing the way they refer to people in prison and offering them more freedom. NEWS CENTER Maine also spoke to people who are not in favor of these changes.

"I'm more concerned about the effect that all this conversation and change has on the worst offenders, not resident offenders," Arthur Jette, president of the Maine chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, said. 

He got involved with the group after his grandson was murdered in 1999.

But Maine DOC leaders, advocates, and legislators said changing the way people talk about corrections could lead to fewer people committing crimes after leaving prison.

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