MACHIAS – Governor Janet Mills has announced she is looking to reopen the Downeast Correctional Facility after former Governor Paul LePage abruptly closed it last February. Now employees who were laid off are speaking out.
A former employee at Downeast Correctional Facility Chris Sprague said, “One of my other employees called me and said don’t bother coming down the gates locked.”
Another former employee at Downeast Correctional Facility JJ Tibbetts said, “Supervisors stopped me and said not to go to work if I went id be arrested for trespassing.”
Chris Sprague worked at Downeast Correctional Facility as a vocational trades instructor for six years.
JJ Tibbetts was a correctional trades instructor who worked there almost 24 years and said he missed retirement by 14 months when former governor Paul LePage decided to shut down the facility.
“It was so disrespectful if they really wanted to close it they could have sent a bus down and been respectful about it. In the middle of the night was not respectful it was illegal, it was immortal, it was wrong,” said Tibbetts.
Both Sprague and Tibbetts have been unemployed ever since, trying to make ends meet.
“Looking for work I tried resurrecting one of the businesses I did at home been really tough haven’t had a lot of work I drive a bus part,” Sprague said.
They said though it’s been tough on them they feel for the inmates who lost their work as well.
“I been there long enough to see the place really turn around and we actually started making a positive impact on community,” said Tibbetts.
Machias Town Manager Christina Therrien said inmates helped out with community projects like maintaining cemeteries, mowing lawns, and shoveling during the winter.
“Some businesses here the prisoners have done such good work for them they’ve moved into jobs with them,” said Therrien.
Therrien along with Sprague and Tibbetts is happy and hopeful about the facility reopening.
“Just happy that it you know it’s gonna happen. I mean they can close it in a second they can open it in a minute,” Tibbetts said.
“It’s kind of hard it’s been so long I’d like to see it open back up again I thought it was a great interaction with the community,” said Sprague.