MACHIAS – *Minimal* was the key word out of the governor’s office Monday afternoon.
Governor Paul LePage announced he will comply with a court order to reopen the Downeast Correctional Facility, but in the most minimal way possible.
At 4:30 a.m., February 9th, state troopers swarmed the gates of the Washington County minimum security prison. They took the prisoners, told the staff they were no longer needed, and they left. All under the dark of night on the orders of
Governor LePage. “He violated the state of Maine constitution and state statutes,” said John Mills, a Downeast Correctional Facility corrections officer. That sentiment echoed off the walls of Helen’s restaurant in Machias Monday morning as
dozens of prison workers gathered to hear the latest status update on lawsuits challenging the govenor’s authority to close the Machiasport facility. “We all knew it was illegal. It’s been verified in court that it’s illegal. Guys had to retire when t
hey didn’t want to. That should be taken back because of an illegal act. It was all taken by the governor illegally,” said Chris Marshall, a D.C.F. corrections officer. The exact number of inmates and guards returning has yet to be determined,
according to a spokesperson for the governor “I’m grateful for the judge’s decision. It was definitely a step forward for us. But there’s a long road ahead,” said Daniel Ramsdell, a Whiting resident and D.C.F. corrections officer. Ramsdell has
spent a lot of time at the state house during the past several weeks lobbying legislators to keep the minimum security prison funded. Julie Rabinowitz, spokesperson for the governor, said the goal is to have the prison operational by the end of
this week. According to a release from the governor’s office, “operating the facility in a minimal capacity allows the department (of corrections) to comply with the court order. The legislature has funded the prison through the end of June.
“I would hope that the state would recognize the hardship they put them in and give them their pay at least through June 30th,” said Scott Guerra, a reitred D.C.F. employee. At full capacity the prison held 148 inmates, with a staff of about 60. A
couple of weeks ago, two maintenance workers were called back to work. In the past year, Mary Jo Nelson and her husband have dealt with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, while dealing with the ups and downs of life as an employee
of the Downeast Correctional Facility. “we certainly didn’t need this added stress on top of the other things we were going through. I’m very unhappy with the governor,” she said during an interview Monday morning. Tuesday, the Maine House of
Representatives is expected to vote on whether to fund the Downeast Correctional Facility through the end of June 2019.