Bill to Keep Downeast Correctional Facility Open Passes First Hurdle

Contact:
Krysta West
Communications Director
Senate Republican Office
(207) 287-1505
krysta.west@legislature.maine.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On Monday, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 10-1-1 to support a bill sponsored by Rep. Will Tuell (R-East Machias) and several of his Washington County colleagues on both sides of the aisle including Sen. Joyce Maker (R-Washington), Reps. Robert Alley (D-Beals) and Anne Perry (D-Calais) that would keep the Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) in Machiasport open through 2019.

Despite the fact that two members did not vote with the majority of the committee, both voted for versions which would keep DCF open an extra year.

“While the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s strong vote of approval is encouraging, this bill still has a long way to go before it is funded,” said Sen. Maker. “But I am hopeful that my colleagues will once again join me in supporting DCF and Washington County, because this facility plays such a critical role in our criminal justice system.”

The committee vote came after nearly two hours of public testimony from business leaders, community officials and current and former prison employees last week, and follows on the heels of over 3,000 petitions from community members being submitted during the hearing.

Tuell said that he thinks there will be a long fight ahead to keep the prison open, a fight which will require $5.5 million in state funding.

“I am very thankful for the committee’s care and consideration of this bill and the bipartisan manner in which folks worked. I think we have a battle ahead of us, we have a lot of hoops to jump through, but we are still in this, and will most likely still be in it right up till the Legislature closes up shop in late April,” he said. “I want to thank ALL of the DCF crew who came up here on icy roads, through all kinds of weather, to see this through. Whatever comes of this effort, I am proud to call you my friends and in many cases, my constituents.”

LD 1704 will now go to the House of Representatives and then the Senate for consideration.

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