AUGUSTA – The battle to save the Downeast Correctional Facility is heating up in Augusta.
Governor LePage wants to close the facility and commute the sentences of many inmates to save money.
But lawmakers are resisting the move, the Maine House passed emergency legislation tThursday morning to block the closure, following the senate’s lead which also voted Wednesday to restore funding to the facility.
Wednesday afternoon, the State Senate overwhelmingly passed an order directing the Appropriations Committee to fund the Downeast Correctional Facility. That’s on the heels of the governor sending layoff notices to all 46 employees at the Machiasport minimum security prison.
Senator Joyce Maker, R-Calais, said “I never believed that we would have to this far.”
A spokesperson for the Corrections Officers’ Union said legal options are being explored. Union representative Jim Mackie said “We’re working the political side. We’re still working the legal side. We’re hoping to get some folks from Washington County to sign on and go after an injunction.”
The resolution to fund the Downeast prison goes to the House of Representatives Thursday. From there it’s expected to be sent to the budget committee to include funding in the next two-year budget.
Senator Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said “This is one of those moments, Mr. President, where I think we need to stand up and assert our authority as a legislature.”
Supporters who want to keep the Downeast Correctional Facility open stated it’s not just the jobs of the corrections that are at stake. They also say the prisoners provide employees for seasonal work for the region.
The governor’s press office declined to comment on the senate action related to the downeast prison.