BANGOR – A referendum vote on the proposed new site for the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor has been delayed once again.
Just steps from the Penobscot County Government offices, a vacant former YMCA building continues to await its future. The wait will now be extended past November, as a referendum vote on a new jail in Bangor scheduled for then has been delayed once again.
“We’re seeing significant changes in the system, so we think it’s an important time to step back and see if we can possibly do something better,” said Penobscot County District one Commissioner Peter Baldacci.
Baldacci is referring to a reduction of inmates at the Penobscot County Jail due to COVID-19.
He’s hoping a continuation of programs like the Maine pretrial services and a decrease in custodian arrests are able to keep the current facility viable.
“We don’t know if this trend will continue, but we don’t want to make a 20- or 30-year commitment on debt until we have a better idea,” Baldacci said.
Brewer police have been issuing summonses for court appearances, instead of bringing individuals charged with certain crimes to the county jail to be housed, which has also helped reduce the numbers inside the facility.
“Years ago, it would have been far more likely for someone to have been arrested for something like criminal operating after suspension, whereas now in many cases that person will get a summons as opposed to going to jail,” said Jason Moffitt, Brewer Public Safety Director.
The current facility is housing around 120 inmates on a given day, below its capacity of 157.
Around 50 inmates charged with nonviolent crimes were released in March, but Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said making additional decreases can be difficult.
“I do believe that some changes can be made,” Morton said. “I’m not so sure that we can get to the numbers that some are speaking to. It will take dramatic changes. It’s taking dramatic changes today.”