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The Maine legislature’s Judiciary Committee has scheduled a work session on eight bills on July 15 beginning at 9 am. You can listen and/or watch this session through links from the committee page at http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/JUD  This is also where you can find the more complete schedule for this joint committee.

We have been involved with two of these bills:

LD 302 An Act To Amend the Laws Governing Post-conviction Review in Order To Facilitate the Fair Hearing of All Evidence in Each Case Involving a Claim of Innocence. This bill extends the time for filing and requires that a petition for post-conviction review claiming actual innocence receive at least one evidentiary hearing in which the petitioner may submit new evidence and evidence submitted in prior proceedings on the same matter.image

LD 1061 An Act To Establish a Fund To Compensate Unjustly Incarcerated Persons.

For each bill, the LD number is linked to legislative information about the bill. Including text. MPAC has already testified on these bills and you can see our testimony by following the link then looking at Committee Info.  If you wish to have input, you can write to the chairs of the Committee: Senator Carpenter, Michael.Carpenter@Legislature.Maine.gov and Representative Bailey, Donna.Bailey@Legislature.Maine.gov

Yours in Love and Service,

peter

Peter Lehman

Legislative Coordinator

Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

Thomaston, Maine

(207) 542-1496

Committed to ethical, positive, and humane changes in Maine’s prison system

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That’s the thing about suicide. Try as you might to remember how a person lived his life, you always end up thinking about how he ended it.”

– Anderson Cooper


Ten years and a month ago, give or take a few days, I graduated, with little fanfare (a poinsettia and a chocolate orange) from Justice Nancy Mills’ Kennebec County Co-Occurring Disorders Court. We called it C.O.D.C. But that’s a prequel which, at the moment, exists only in outline, Bodhisattva.

Ten years and a month ago, give or take a few more days, I got arrested. Oh, yes! But then, isn’t that how most of my best adventures end?

In this case, after graduating this strict alternative-to-sentencing court program, after nearly two years of participation with ever-clean urine tests and breathalyzers, no legal trouble, and without Nancy finding out about my twenty year old live in girl friend, I graduated, and days later, I started drinking. At night, of course. One night, I got into a fight with aforementioned girlfriend and we got a bit loud (she threw me down the stairs, hit me over the head with a guitar, bit my arm when I tried to restrain her.) Our fat, expatriate British neighbor, (was the fucker’s name “Ted?”) banged on the door (after calling the cops) and the girlfriend opens it, ends up scurrying next door to his apartment. And I was, well, drunk, so when the fat fuck told me to “GO TO YOUR APARTMENT!” I did. And the fuzz showed up, during this major snowstorm / shitstorm. Six deep.

Now, I may have been drunk, but I’d been through this before. I wasn’t gonna say shit, although I apparently did agree with one of the cops when he called me “Kristopher.” But then, it was one of my names, just not a legal one.

I never imagined that my girlfriend at the time would throw me under the bus. She did. It was like a twist of an ending.. the person you least expected is the one to bring the hero down. Off I went, at the request of my Rhode scholar probation officer, Mark Fortin, down to Kennebec County Correctional Facility (it was probably the same person who named the jail a correctional facility as the one who named a small, local college the “University” of Augusta. Sorry.)

I sat in holding and I remember thinking, this is it. I’m done. The president of the Holistic Recovery Project, drunk, and I was informed, in jail on a domestic!

That whore!

Ah, I thought. I’m screwed. Windham Prison bound.

But I wasn’t, of course. Soldiers of the nation came in droves; some put money on the phone for me; Don Anton from Krypton generously put money on my books. And after repeatedly threatening suicide, one of my best friends ended up in the holding cell beside me, co-founder of the Project, Arthur Brian Traweek. Truedogg.

 

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~

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” 
― Nietzsche

~

Truedogg was a street survivor with borderline personality disorder, and he played the court team like a game of “Go Fish,” his favorite card game. He had graduated a year before me and, never wanting to graduate in the first place, he had re-offended. He had a six months sentence for allegedly robbing some watches from a friend. Apparently, he’d been screaming suicide since arriving at the jail.

When they finally put me in a cell block, they put Truedogg with me. Karen, the porcine mental health worker at the jail told me: “We’re gonna put him with you. That way, I know he’ll be okay.” He wasn’t; none of us were. We were put into one of the classrooms which I later found was filthy with sex offenders; it wasn’t your stereotypical cell block. This was more like a barracks – a classroom with one bathroom and shower filled with bunk beds. And skinners and peeps who threatened suicide; it was easier to watch everyone in a barracks style operation, and it’s true – it they are actually watching.

My cousin Glen “Hawkeye” Bartlett ended up there too, and he and Truedogg and I passed the time, of course, playing cards. Or pantsing other convicts. Tired of constantly playing the prison favorite, “spades,” out of boredom and desperation we began to play other card games, games from childhood like “Crazy Eights,” “Concentration,” “Old Maid,” and “Go Fish.” Truedogg’s favorite game, I think I wrote a moment ago, was “Go Fish.”

Truedogg was depressed, or playing depressed and we couldn’t figure out why, I mean, he was doing six months, he’d be out in two, and being the Court favorite, he was going to be allowed back into the court program that he loved, or pretended to love, so much. We had the same lawyer, the mighty N. Seth Levy, and we had the same spiritual leader, also a member of the court team, soberati and zen-master, Peter Wohl. Seth of course visited both of us. Other members of the court team, only visited the Dogg. I wouldn’t’ find out why for years.

Peter later told me that Justice Mills (whom my probation officer Mark Fortin has assured me was quite pissed at me) had ordered the court team not to visit me.

Truedogg’s girlfriend Whitney (who he’d met in a Crisis unit, of course,) was visiting him regularly as well; sometimes we’d both go down and see her at the same time, if Truedogg needed support. Truedogg was in the pokey, I don’t know if I’ve told you, for stealing from a friend of his, a doctor whom he’d met one time in county. The dogg had apparently stolen some watches; there was an article about the crime in the paper, but our lawyer, Seth didn’t want him looking at it. So, of course, Whitney mailed a copy to him anyway. It disturbed him.

In the article, the victim had claimed that, not only did Truedogg steal from him, but he also tried to hang him, something which the dog denied. I didn’t know what to believe, but the Dogg was my friend, and making light of the situation, Whitney and I started calling him, “Hangman.”

Foreshadowing.

Now, soon to rejoin the court program that he loved, the Dogg was required to go before Justice Mills on Mondays again, this time in chains. One Monday, he returned from court more down than usual. Justice Mills had asked him how he was doing, and the Dogg replied that he hated himself. And I forget what the answer was that she gave him, but it wasn’t very nice. As I remember it, he was a bit teared up as we talked about it, over jailhouse decaf coffee. We’d had many talks since coming together in jail about God and Hell and sin and courts and love. I remember him asking me once if I thought that suicides go straight to Hell, and I told him that I didn’t understand God, but I was quite sure that he wasn’t so black and white.

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I told him about my friends who’d successfully faked hangings.

That day, we talked about Court and how bad he felt for disappointing Justice Mills. I remember reassuring him, and praying with him. He said that he was gonna take a shower and I believe I told him that God loved him and so did I. Then, I sat down to watch “Law and Order” which happened every afternoon at 2pm. Truedogg wedged a streamer of toilet paper in the door-jam, something I hadn’t seen him do before, but I assumed that it was just to let people know that he was in there. So people let him be; a guard, Guererra, I believe, checked the bathroom during his hourly checks. He overlooked what I would see.

Not long after, someone screamed. Bobby had gone into the bathroom to use the toilet, and now he was screaming and then another convict went in and then I heard Father Matthew bellow and then I went in and the Dogg was in the shower, fully clothed, hanging from a sheet he’d wrapped around the shower gear.

Hangman.

We took him down, me and this other kid, and pulled him out into the common area while someone else hit the button to alert the turnkeys.

The cops came running quickly (including Guererra, who’d pretended, apparently, to check the bathroom earlier.) The convicts were all ordered to stay on our cots. The cops started chest compressions, but I noticed they weren’t doing rescue breaths. Later, maybe eleven minutes later, the prison doc shows up with a breath bag. No one had given Truedogg a rescue breath because they no one had the 75 cent plastic “seperater” which prevented lips from touching. I guess it was procedure – no separator, no rescue breaths. The sheriff himself came up as they worked on the dog, but, I mean, damn, when I pulled him out of the shower and lay him on the floor he was so cold, and his skin was already so pale.

Why didn’t I start doing rescue breathing on the Dogg?

Why didn’t I offer to? And I don’t know and I’ve thought about that forever.

They moved us all down to the library while they did their thing at the crime scene. I don’t remember much, except that it was cold, and we were left alone, and I remember freaking out on some kid because he’d remarked that all suicides go to Baptist Hell.

A young guard popped in at some point and casually told us that Truedogg was dead. A while later and some quacks connected with Crisis and Counseling and ergo the Court Team came in and tried to council us for ten minutes. Then they left and we were lead back to the classroom.

I don’t remember what I felt; I remember Father Matthew reading to me from Sirach.. thank you, Father. One thing I did do was to write down what had happened, and to have all of the convicts sign it. ( You can find a copy of the letter at:

http://holisticrecoveryproject.org/truedogg.htm)

My cousin had been gone at the time of the self-crime and had a meltdown when he found out what had occurred. I’m trying to encourage him to write something about the Dogg, but hell, man, this guy took over what had been the Dogg’s bunk and freaked out whenever a guard tried to reassign him. I think that one of the mental health workers got fired over some sort of confrontation with Hawk about the Dogg.

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What’s wrong, Bob? Not enough twang in it for you?”

– Truedogg, on a negative comment concerning house music by Bob Fortin

~

Arthur Brian “Truedogg” Traweek and I met while in C.O.D.C. We also both had rooms at the same rooming house, but it took a while for us to warm up to each other. He seemed unfriendly, even kind of shady.

He wasn’t. I’m not sure exactly how or when it happened, but we became close friends at some point. Every evening at around seven, Truedogg would come up to my room to discuss Christianity or the courts or the various programs we were mandated to attend. Truedogg admitted to me quite early that he suffered from borderline personality disorder, and that everything he was he’d learned by watching others. Watching.

Brian had a bad childhood. Bad. Abuse. He ended up in an orphanage, where other kids called him “Gomez.” He was a racketeer though, even then, and sold other orphans contraband which he kept in behind a broken panel in the wall. At some point he became a runner; he chose the name “Wanderer” for himself; we started calling him Truedogg after hearing a song of the same name by Toby Mac. But, he was a wanderer. He got in trouble with the law, ans somehow ended up at a christian halfway house down south, “Love-Action Ministry” run by Miss Polly. Raised a Catholic, it was here that he became a Catholic hating extremist of a Protestant. It was also here that he was introduced to Miss Polly’s “Twelve Steps to Wholeness.” (“Wholeness,” the Dogg explained, “Comes from the word ‘Holiness’.”) a christian twelve step format.

Brian was released at some point from Miss Polly’s, although knowing him, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t want to go. Once back up north, he actually did his best to get arrested. He would go into Hotels (the same ones where he slept, in the boiler rooms) steal a checkbook and then head to the bank to try to get caught cashing it. It took quite a long time, and of course, Brian gave most of the money away. It was while in Cumberland county jail that he would become good friends with his final victim.

Eventually, Truedogg made it up to Kennebec County and C.O.D.C. And he was able to play them like a game of crazy eights, but then, that’s how he was made. He did a classic BPD game of being distant for a bit, then having a great “breakthrough” of opening up to the very person or persons he’d previously been so distant from. Justice Mills bought right into it, as did Zen-master Peter Wohl and the rest of the team. He convinced them (and maybe himself, although he was so good, it was impossible to tell) that he considered them his family, that he loved coming to court and never wanted to leave.

Awww…

By the time we became good friends, Truedogg had secured a job as a peer support specialist at the state mental hospital. He wouldn’t drink any coffee but Starbucks, smoked basic lights, and once explained to me how to scrub your shoes clean. He loved house music and could go on and on about it – Chicago Swing, Boston Beat, Japtronic, etc. He and one of his brothers (a hip-hop DJ) went to a house party in Philly or Boston, and ended up getting chased out by some brothers who’d gotten viscous, the Dogg said, because they were listening to something like, “Jungle House” or something. Whatever it was he claimed that they were quite violent. The Dogg also introduced me to Christian House music, while spinning about in his car, the mini Jamaican flag hanging from the rear view.

Now, don’t think that the dogg was a saint, because he wasn’t, and his troubles usually involved women.

The “Jen” situation, the “Belinda” situation. Holy, Dogg! But despite his quirks, admittedly due to the abuse he’d suffered as a child, ( back when his friends called him “Nipsy,”) he always brought a good message to our nighttime dharma talks. For the sake of brevity I’ll stick to the wisdom he added to the Project.

~

Step 13: Love was there all along. We realized that we had a spiritual relationship even when we didn’t know it. We’ve always been worthy.” – Recovery through Wholeness

~

When I started C.O.D.C. There was an A.A. Meeting held at Crisis and Counseling, the courts puppet mental health facility. When they moved locations, another member of the program, Jamie, wanted to start an A.A. Meeting in the vacated space. Jamie dropped out, but Truedogg picked up his slack. It was Truedogg who’d first introduced me to duel recovery anonymous, a 12-step program which focuses on both a persons addiction and their mental illness, and I was soon running two D.R.A. Groups a week. At first, we decided to make (coordinating with Mark “the worm-man” Rosenberg) it a D.R.A. Meeting, until one day the Dogg (who didn’t trust the worm-man) suggested: “Why not make it all-recovery?” We received permission to start our own twelve step group from Justice Mills, and thanks to the Dogg it was to become Maine’s first all-recovery program. I wrote most of the material on the floor of my room at the rooming house, working some stuff the Dogg had written into something a little more secular/humanistic. We used Miss Polly’s twelve steps to Wholeness at our first group (Circle) and then, again, came up with our own on the floor of my boarding house room.

All that we knew, really, was A.A., and like N.A. We were coming really close to Bill W’s twelve steps, with a word substituted here or there. I wanted us to be different, to have our own, unique twelve steps. To this end, it was the Dogg who came up with the term “Spiritual Relationship” instead of the hackneyed “higher power,” “reconciliation” instead of “amends,” and “parameters” instead of “traditions.” Our version of the steps went from the banal (Step One: “We realized that things were fucked up.” ) to the sacred: we had a thirteenth step. This too, I’d come up with on the floor of the room, but I got it from a conversation between Truedogg and one of my ex’s. She was talking about a girl in the court program in a very denigrating way and they got into it about “worthiness.” I remember the Dogg saying: “She’s worthy. We are ALL worthy. Because we’re born we’re worthy.” This has become one of the most important tenets of the Project and our step thirteen: “..we have always been worthy.” or as I paraphrase it to peeps: “You’ve always been worthy. And anyone who’s ever told you differently is a liar.” And it’s from the Dogg.

Eventually, the Dogg got into a relationship with a woman, and he was terrified about the possibility of sex, due to his abuse. We talked him through it, but, alas, the woman, after using him for his money, dumped him, and it killed him. Soon after he lost his job, went to stay with his friend from Cumberland County, stole his watches, maybe tried to hang him. I don’t know.

But Truedogg’s dead.

~

Where there is a corpse, the vultures will gather.” – Jesus Christ

~

I was told by various people that Justice Mills was pissed at me. I’d never made a connection with her; it was hard for me, developing a rapport with her so far away and so high up. It was like going to see the king. Furthermore, despite the fact that I was a major success in the program, I knew that Nancy didn’t much care for me, and someone on the team, Peter told me, had been keeping me from graduating the program. I went in front of the bench one day after I’d given the team a letter listing my accomplishments and asking why I hadn’t graduated. Justice Mills told me that I was arrogant and needed to learn some humility. It was then that I realized that, no matter what I did, how I dressed, how far I climbed, Nancy and the rest of the team would never think of me as any more than a common thug.

Really?

I know that Peter presided over a zen funeral for Truedogg. I wasn’t there. The week previous it looked as though I’d be bailed out. We’d gone to court to get bail set and as luck would have it, my ex came and admitted her part in the whole thing. Bail was set a $1500, which my peeps could do. Then, mysteriously, I was told that it wasn’t a lump sum, it was

$1500 per each of my two charges, and my peeps couldn’t afford $3000. Whatever happened, the team successfully kept me away from the funeral.

There was a candle light vigil, but no action. We got to watch this crowd outside drinking real coffee and smoking cigarettes and none of them had come to see the dogg when he was alive. No action was taken against the jail; I believe Guererra was transferred as fast as a child molesting priest back in the 70s.

~

You know me, from back in school, I’m White Rose, I’ma kill you. Razor blades, queen of spades,hangman’s noose from Robin Rage…”

– Robin Raged, “I’ma kill You.”

~

It is insanely difficult to write this.

When I got out, I was crazy with survivors guilt. I was seeing Truedogg in crowds in the light of day, dreaming of the ordeal at night. And the thing about suicide is that no one really wants to talk about it. And no one did. So, neither did I. The death of the dogg did something to me and it was bad to the point where, when I returned to jail en route to prison back in ’09, I was relieved.

I still haven’t’ fully processed the Dogg’s death. The closest I ever got was a song that I wrote for him while at Windham Prison, “the Executioners Song.” Perhaps I’ll play it for you in the next. No, I just carried whatever it caused with me, and sought out distractions from it and the way I felt, ghosts and everything. My last year in the ghetto, I knew more people, personally, who died from opiate addiction then I should even talk about, but, my friend, I haven’t shed a tear for them, or anyone since the dogg.

Yes, of course I’ll see someone abut this. I will. Swear.

I met with his family once, and for a while kept in touch with the Dogg’s brother, Daniel, and I’ve spoken with the Dogg’s son Justin about it. Once.

Okay, I’m just starting to spit out nonsense now, so I’m gonna close.. I just want y’all to remember my brother TrueDogg, okay.

I’ve asked my cousin Hawk to write something, but I’m sure he’s as fucked in the head about the whole thing as I am, we’ll see.

More next time, swear.

I love you all, okay, so, be safe, please.

Love and love and love and love,

Papa Rage

Truedogg, I miss you, man.

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Three inmates have died within weeks at Maine State Prison, but officials there say the deaths aren’t suspicious. (BDN)<p>{/p}

WARREN (BDN) — Three inmates have died within weeks at Maine State Prison, but officials there say the deaths aren’t suspicious.

The Maine Department of Corrections is limited in what it can disclose publicly after an inmate dies in custody, but officials say the lack of information can lead to questions about the circumstances of those deaths.

“People’s imaginations can run a little bit. But my hands are tied because we want to protect their privacy,” Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said. “As commissioner, [medical privacy laws] make it difficult to indicate that a death was due to natural causes or a terminal illness. A lot of people assume that there was some sort of suspicious death.“

On Dec. 3, a state inmate died just one month short of his scheduled release. Two days later an inmate serving a 75-year sentence for murder died. Then on Dec. 13 another inmate serving a sentence for murder died.

In all, eight state inmates died in custody in 2019 — the same number of inmate deaths as the previous year. All were in custody at Maine State Prison. Since 2014, the majority of inmate deaths have been from natural causes, Liberty said, though one is attributed to suicide. Another was killed at Bolduc Correctional Facility in June 2018 when an inmate allegedly strangled him in a fight over cigarettes. The inmate accused of the murder is slated to go on trial in May.

Following an inmate’s death, DOC officials issue a public release that details the incident, including the inmate’s name, age, time of death, former residence and information about their prison sentence. The cause of death is typically omitted. While the notifications might seem oversimplified, prison officials say they follow a robust protocol that involves numerous state agencies every time an inmate dies in custody.

Most inmate deaths within the DOC system occur at the Maine State Prison, according to Liberty, because the facility is the only one in the state that offers a hospice program for inmates with terminal illnesses. At that facility, Maine State Prison Det. Andrew Ames is responsible for investigating deaths that occur.

While the majority of deaths occur under staff supervision in the prison’s infirmary, medical staff is immediately notified about deaths that happen in other parts of the facility. When an unresponsive inmate is found in their cell, for example, the corrections officer who found the individual will begin lifesaving procedures, such as CPR.

“If they can try to save that life, they absolutely try,” Ames said. “We’ve had staff here perform CPR for more than 40 minutes in some cases.”

If they’re unable to revive the inmate, officials at the state medical examiner’s office are notified, along with the Maine State Police and the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

“A thorough and robust investigation is being conducted [when an inmate dies], there are checks and balances in place and we are doing everything we can to make sure the right thing is being done,” Ames said.

Even if the inmate dies from natural causes in the infirmary and state police decline to investigate, the medical examiner always reviews the body to determine the cause of death, Ames said, and multiple agencies file reports with the attorney general’s office.

Within an hour of an inmate’s death, the individual’s next of kin is contacted.

“It can be pretty contentious,” Liberty said. “Sometimes the family member will say ‘Thanks for the notification but please don’t contact me again.’”

Once the medical examiner finishes a review, the body is released to the family. If they do not have the means for burial or cremation, the DOC has a budget to cremate the body and provide the remains to the family.

About 15 volunteer inmates support the hospice program at Maine State Prison, and provide care for terminally ill prisoners who are nearing the end of life.

“What I’ve seen happen often, for people who have been incarcerated for long periods of time, their community is the prison. That becomes almost family to them,” Liberty said. “When someone passes in hospice care at the prison, there is a lot of nurturing, a lot of fellowship and a lot of humanity.”

Robert Rossignol, 51, had been incarcerated since 1989, after being convicted of stabbing a 90-year-old woman to death and sexually assaulting her the year before in the Aroostook County town of Stockholm.

He died near 10:30 p.m. Thursday, with prison staff present, the Maine Department of Corrections said in a news release.

Robert Rossignol, 51                “the Stockhom Granny Stabber.”

Authorities did not describe the cause of death. Officials at the Maine State Prison on Saturday declined to comment, saying only the warden, who was not available, could answer questions about an inmate.

Rossignol’s scheduled release date was Feb. 23, 2036.

His death follows a handful of others at Maine’s correctional facilities this year, some much closer to their dates of release.

As is standard practice, the Maine Attorney General’s Office and the state medical examiner have been notified of the death.

BY DENNIS HOEY, STAFF WRITER, Portland Press Herald

A former Portland resident with less than two months left on his sentence for unlawful sexual contact died Tuesday morning at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

The inmate was identified as 65-year-old Stephen Burton, News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ TV) said, citing the Maine Department of Corrections.

Burton had been serving a sentence of more than seven years for unlawful sexual contact, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Burton died around 6:30 a.m. He was scheduled to be released on Jan 27.

The Attorney General’s Office and the state Medical Examiner’s Office were notified.

(Karma.)

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Write to Dirty via:

Maine State Prison – Michael McQuade – MDOC #82448

807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4699

 

Desiree Fischer, a med tech at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, wheels a medication cart down the hall on Wednesday. Between 30 and 61 percent of Maine?s 1,774 county jail inmates were prescribed at least one psychiatric medication, according to a survey conducted by the Bangor Daily News in August (Troy R. Bennett | BDN).

STATEWIDE (BDN) — A Maine judge makes the unprecedented decision to forcibly medicate a murder suspect with antipsychotic drugs. A violent, severely mentally ill patient is shipped to state prison after twice attacking staff members at Riverview Psychiatric Center.

Now Gov. Paul LePage, besieged with troubles at Riverview, has plans to send even more violent patients to prison, and proposes to spend millions to convert the prison facility in Windham to house mentally ill inmates.

These headlines point to a much deeper crisis in Maine. After a well-intentioned move decades ago to shift the care of the mentally ill away from psychiatric institutions, many Mainers can’t find adequate care in their communities. They still end up institutionalized but now it’s behind bars.

The ranks of inmates taking psychiatric medications in Maine’s jails and prisons today once would have filled the state’s largest hospitals for the mentally ill.

Between 30 and 61 percent of Maine’s 1,774 county jail inmates were prescribed at least one psychiatric medication, according to a survey conducted by the Bangor Daily News in August. About a third of the 2,223 inmates in state prisons were taking drugs to manage their mental illness. At the Intensive Mental Health Unit at the state prison in Warren, all inmates were medicated at the time of the survey.

The figures are even higher at Maine’s now consolidated youth corrections facility. More than half of all juvenile offenders, or 79 of the 127, took medications. Many of them are at high risk of returning to the prison system as adults, still in need of mental health treatment.

As high as those percentages are, they underrepresent the real population of inmates with mental illness, because the figure is nearly impossible to nail down.

County jail and corrections officials broadly agree that the rising volume of mentally ill patients is untenable. But counting prescriptions offers only a point-in-time snapshot of the problem. It also fails to account for offenders who are undiagnosed or have mental illnesses that don’t require medication, or varying, facility-to-facility policies for dispensing medications.

Inmate advocates also contend that budget cuts have spurred jails and prisons to crack down on taxpayer-funded prescription drugs, leaving some prisoners unmedicated.

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said many of the people walking through his jail’s doors are undoubtedly experiencing a mental health crisis, whether they have an official diagnosis or not. The need burdens everyone it touches from the sick individual to the law enforcement official apprehending them, from the jail taking custody to the taxpayer picking up the tab.

“There was a day when if a person was on the street yelling and screaming, [police] didn’t know what to do with them, so they were charged with disorderly conduct, end of problem,” Morton said. “But it wasn’t the end of the problem. It was a temporary delay.”

A moving target

After an arrest, inmates typically are asked about their mental health. Most correctional facilities follow National Commission on Correctional Health Care guidelines for initial screenings, which include a questionnaire that asks about current medications and thoughts of suicide.

Jail and prison staff do not make decisions about medical care, including for mental health problems, Morton said. All correctional facilities contract out for those services.

“We are not doctors,” he said.

Screeners review the questionnaire, “triage it, and get them to a provider” if the inmate is on prescription medications when they enter jail, said Geoffrey Archambeau, CEO of Correctional Health Partners, a Denver, Colorado-based company that contracts with the Penobscot County Jail, the Kennebec County Jail and other facilities throughout the country.

If an undiagnosed person is in crisis, they are directed to a medical provider who can prescribe medications, if warranted, according to jail officials from across the state.

“Usually they have committed a crime due to not taking their medication,” Knox County Sheriff Donna Dennison said in an email.

One reason the state has no current count of inmates with mental health diagnoses is because “it’s not a searchable thing” since each jail uses a different computer management system, Archambeau said.

“Here’s the problem: Nobody has real numbers,” Morton said.

While the state has one centralized administrative system for all its facilities, called CORIS, it does not allow prison or Department of Corrections officials to query inmates’ mental health records because of medical privacy laws, according to Deputy Commissioner Jody Breton.

Only the department’s contracted medical provider, Correct Care Solutions, can search those records. John Newby, Correct Care regional vice president, found that in 2015, around 48 percent of juveniles and 34 percent of adult inmates were prescribed psych medications.

“For the State of Maine, we are actually below the national averages on prescribing of psychotropic medication,” Newby said in an email to Breton that she forwarded to the Bangor Daily News.

Many inmates diagnosed with mental illness also have developed drug dependency from “self-medicating,” according to Morton.

That often leaves jails serving as their region’s largest detox and mental illness crisis centers, he said.

“My question is: Is that what corrections is supposed to be about?” said Morton, who started as a corrections officer in 1988. “Is that really how we should be treating people with mental illness and substance abuse? To me, this is really an expensive way to do it.”

Cost pressures

Jails and prisons often fail to identify inmates with mental illness, according to an April 2014 report by two Texas doctors. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study examined a nationally representative sample of U.S. prisoners, finding that more than half who were taking medications for mental health conditions upon arrival failed to receive the drugs after incarceration.

“This lack of treatment continuity is partially attributable to screening procedures that do not result in treatment by a medical professional in prison,” the report states. “This treatment discontinuity has the potential to affect both recidivism and health care costs on release from prison.”

Joseph Jackson, who formed the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition upon his release from prison two years ago, says many inmates go without drugs they need or receive “cheaper” substitutes.

When he was arrested for shooting another man in 1995 and locked up in county jail, Jackson was taking medication for depression.

“I was on one treatment going in and they got rid of that,” said Jackson, who was the triggerman in a drug-related slaying in Lewiston on Easter morning 20 years ago that left one man dead. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been on one [prescription] for 20 years and it’s been working well. They say it’s because doctors on the outside are manipulated.”

When he was eventually convicted of manslaughter later that year, Jackson entered the state prison system. Again, his prescription for depression changed.

“They gave me amitriptyline,” Jackson said. “That is how, mostly, they dealt with us. They gave it away back then.”

But today, the cost of medications has changed how correctional facilities dispense them.

“It depends on what those pills cost,” said Jackson, who started a chapter of the NAACP and earned a college degree while behind bars. “They’re going to give you the cheapest pills.”

Providing substitute medications may help county and state pocketbooks, but Jackson describes that approach as an injustice against inmates.

At the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, inmates formerly received psychiatric medications upon request. But in 2011, the jail changed its policy “to only giving the medications when the inmate comes into the jail taking the medications and after being verified,” Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said in a recent email. “Or, when the doctors and/or psychologist believes that the medication is necessary.”

That change saved the jail thousands of dollars per year on medication costs, he said. Other jails have instituted the same policy.

For his part, Archambeau, the medical contractor for the Penobscot County Jail, disputes the contention that cost drives decisions on which drugs are dispensed. PCJ spends about $40,000 a year close to 8 percent of its $525,000 annual medical budget on psychotropic medications.

Yet costs can vary by facility. What jail and prison leaders say they have in common is that they’re doing all they can to accommodate inmates with mental illness.

Capt. Jeff Chute, Androscoggin County Jail administrator, said he has witnessed the transformation of county jails over the years. He started in law enforcement in 1984, joining the jail in 1995.

“We are de facto mental health facilities,” Chute said. “Sometimes we’re there to stabilize them. In order to prevent recidivism, we try to get them back on their meds.”

The costs go beyond prescription drugs, according to Dennison, the Knox County sheriff. When hospitals are full, jail officials pull double duty.

“We have to have a guard sit one-on-one with this person,” Dennison said. “Sad situation all around, not only for mental health folks but also for jails and officers.”

Fewer beds

The housing of Maine’s mentally ill in correctional facilities may be making headlines today, but the problem dates back decades, according to Sharon Sprague, superintendent of Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor.

Many of the country’s psychiatric institutions downsized or closed starting in the 1950s, under a process known as deinstitutionalization. States intended to care for psychiatric patients in their local communities, but often failed to set up adequate services.

“When you consider we had 1,200 patients in 1970 and are down to 40 patients today, it says a lot,” Sprague said of Dorothea Dix, which opened in 1901 as the Eastern Maine Insane Hospital. “Our capacity, if we were to fill all the units, is 51. That has been a huge change.”

Riverview opened in 2004, replacing the Augusta Mental Health Institute, which began in 1840 as the Maine Insane Hospital. Riverview has dual roles: to treat violent offenders and to assess those charged with crimes to determine whether they understand the charges and are competent to stand trial.

Among the patients housed there today is Leroy Smith, who made headlines earlier this month after Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Donald Marden issued an order authorizing the state to medicate him for six months against his will in an attempt to restore his competency to stand trial.

Smith was charged on May 6, 2014, with killing and dismembering his father, 56-year-old Leroy Smith II, and initially was found not competent to stand trial. He is now receiving psychotropic medication and will return to court in April.

Meanwhile, Riverview is fighting a 2013 decertification for poor patient care, which resulted in $20 million in forfeited federal Medicaid funding.

LePage has said his plan to modify the Windham prison for mental health patients will help get Riverview recertified.

At its peak, Riverview had a capacity of 1,500.

Today, Maine has just a fraction of that number, with about 270 psychiatric beds statewide. Riverview accounts for 92 and Dorothea Dix has 51. The other 127 beds are split between Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, and eight community hospitals that all limit patient stays to 30 days.

That’s rarely enough to accommodate the need, experts say, even with Spring Harbor planning to reopen a dozen psychiatric beds after the recent award of $420,000 in state money. Such shortages are a problem in Maine and throughout the country, said Jenna Mehnert, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness in Maine, who came to Maine after working in Pennsylvania and New York.

“There aren’t enough psychiatric beds. And sometimes when officers need to divert a person to the hospital there is no room, and they end up back on the streets in jail or the emergency room,” she said.

Just compare the number of people in mental health institutions back in the 1970s to the populations in homeless shelters today, said Shawn Yardley, Bangor’s former director of health and community services.

“It’s an incredible correlation it’s the same number of people. What we’ve done is move the need for that comprehensive service from mental institutions to homeless shelters, not very successfully and not in the best interest of anybody,” he said.

Changing philosophies

In the past, the philosophy in prisons was to keep inmates with mental illness quiet until they completed their sentence, according to Dr. Dan Bannish, a psychologist at the state prison’s Intensive Mental Health Unit. Now prisons are treating the illness, he said at the unit’s opening in February 2014.

“It’s not a hospital. It’s an intensive mental health unit,” Corrections Commissioner Joe Fitzpatrick said in December. “We really did want this for treatment purposes, not for management purposes. It’s a critical piece and it’s probably the most challenging piece.”

A total of 70 inmates 39 from the Department of Corrections, 29 referred by county jails from across the state, and two from Riverview had been treated in the unit as of the end of January.

The number of suicidal behaviors has dropped considerably and self-abusive incidents among inmates in the program have fallen dramatically, he said.

Maine’s county jails also have made changes.

Aroostook County has a mental health nurse practitioner to screen every inmate’s case, said Sheriff Darrell Crandall.

Penobscot County Jail works with Acadia Hospital, which provides clinical services, including two hours of psychiatric services, each week.

Cumberland County Jail has two social workers and Androscoggin County Jail added a full-time social worker who helps inmates transition back into society in an effort to prevent recidivism, Chute said.

“We had to give up some positions for that,” he said. “It was extremely necessary.”

Chute, Crandall and Morton said law enforcement officers also have learned new ways to deal with people suffering from mental health problems.

The Portland Police Department has developed a specialized behavioral health response program, employing a special liaison who goes out on calls whenever mental illness is identified. The liaison also follows up with patients, conducts referrals and serves as a conduit between the department and behavioral health providers.

Mehnert said other departments should follow Portland’s lead.

“We expect [law enforcement] to be social workers, and it’s really not fair, and when they fail we demonize them,” Mehnert said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine has spent years offering crisis intervention training to law enforcement and emergency responders from all over the state. Every police academy cadet in Maine also goes through that training, along with mental health first aid.

“A lot of this is educating the officers on the street trying to make sure [they can] identify if somebody is in mental health crisis or needs to be incarcerated for a crime,” Mehnert said. “I think that is a crucial thing.”

A smooth transition back into society is key to preventing criminals from reoffending, experts said. But those who are prescribed medication often struggle to pay for their drugs without a job or insurance coverage.

Most jails have transition programs in place, but funding for them often falls short of addressing the multiple factors that affect inmates’ success on the outside, Morton said.

“It’s crucial because if we only set up the mental health part of it, yet they don’t have housing, or they don’t have food or transportation, we’re setting them up for failure,” the Penobscot sheriff said.

“This is not a county jail issue,” Morton said. “It’s a societal issue.”

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Zachary Titus

WARREN, MAINE (AP) —  An inmate has pleaded not guilty to killing his cellmate at a minimum security prison in Maine.

Zachary Titus made a brief appearance in court on Monday. A separate hearing will be held within five days to determine whether Titus will be eligible for bail in 18 months when he completes his current prison term for theft.

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Dana Bartlett died June 24 at the Bolduc Correctional Facility, a minimum security facility in Warren. His fiancée says he was having issues with another inmate and had asked to be moved.

Defense lawyer Jeremy Pratt said Monday that he couldn’t comment because the state had provided no information about the killing, including the autopsy or affidavits.

 

24 January 2019

Jay-Z and Meek Mill launch Reform AllianceJay-Z and Meek Mill have partnered with the owners of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers, among others, to launch the Reform Alliance

Jay-Z, Meek Mill and sport and business leaders have pledged $50m (£38m) to reform the US criminal justice system.

The Reform Alliance, which was inspired by Meek Mill’s recent stint in prison for a minor probation violation, hopes to free one million prisoners in five years.

The owners of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia 76ers, Robert Kraft and Michael Rubin, are co-founders.

Reform says it wants to help people who are “trapped in the system”.

The group’s “mission” is to “dramatically reduce the number of people who are unjustly under the control of the criminal justice system, starting with probation and parole”.

“To win, we will leverage our considerable resources to change laws, policies, hearts and minds,” it says.

More than six million people can currently count themselves as part of the “correctional population” of the USA – which includes people in prisons and local jails, but is mostly made up of the more than four million people on probation or parole, according to Bureau of Justice statistics.

Probation is often given as a sentence instead of time in prison and can include conditions like being on a curfew or going to rehab.

Parole is when an inmate is released early from prison with similar conditions to probation.

Meek Mill has experienced all three: probation, parole and jail.

The Reform Alliance says his case is an example of the “devastating and long-lasting effects” that can occur after one interaction with the criminal justice system.

The rapper was arrested in 2007 – he says wrongfully – for drug and gun charges, aged 19.

He was sentenced in 2009 to between 11 and 23 months in county prison, but was released on parole after five months and put on house arrest.

It was during this time he started to make his name nationally as a rapper, signing to Rick Ross’s label and releasing a string of hugely successful mixtapes.

Before long he was a platinum-selling artist.

But a parole violation for suspected cannabis use resulted in a ban on touring, and then after failing to get his travel plans approved by the court Meek was sentenced to prison again in 2014.

Examples of parole violations that can land people back in prison range from being late to appointments with parole officers or missing a curfew, to things more specific to the crime that was committed – like failing to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

“When you talk about these so-called technical violations, it’s not technical to the kid who can never see her mum again because she showed up late for a meeting. That’s not technical, that’s devastating for that individual child,” Reform Alliance CEO Van Jones said.

Violations over the next few years resulted in his probation period being extended – it now lasts up until 2023 – as well as the five months in prison which ended in April 2018 and birthed the #FreeMeek movement.

It’s people with a similar story to Meek’s, that have been “caught up on probation and parole”, that Reform says it wants to focus on first.

‘If someone commits a crime they should go to jail’

“Being from the environment I’m from, I don’t even think it’s possible for you to be an angel,” Meek said as the organisation was announced in New York.

“You grow up around murder on a daily basis, you grow up in drug-infested neighbourhoods.

“And every time I started to further my life with the music industry, there was always something that brought me back to ground zero,” he said.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who attended the event, said he was a supporter of criminal justice reforms that are “fair, help our system work better and smarter, and save crucial taxpayer dollars while balancing public safety and victim concerns”.

Across the US, roughly a third of people on parole are black, according to Bureau of Justice statistics – something Jay-Z raised at the event.

“We want to be very clear. If someone commits a crime they should go to jail. But these things are just disproportionate and the whole world knows it,” he said.

Jay-Z has been vocal about Meek’s case, writing in the New York Times while he was imprisoned.

“On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started,” he wrote.

“What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day.

“I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.”

 

Couple indicted in Augusta man’s murder

Zina Fritz and Michael Sean McQuade lived in apartment where killing occurred

An Augusta couple has been charged with murder in connection with the drug-related death of a man last November.

Zina Fritz, 27, and her boyfriend, Michael Sean McQuade, 45, were both indicted on murder charges stemming from the death of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta, on Nov. 23, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Fritz and McQuade lived in the apartment at 75 Washington St., Augusta, where Marceau’s body was found.

Investigators have not disclosed how Marceau died but have said the death was drug-related.

Augusta police arrested the couple on unrelated charges last week. They were told of the indictment against them Monday, McCausland said.

A third person, Damik Davis of New York, was arrested on a murder charge the day Marceau’s body was discovered.

Police went to the apartment after receiving a report of a disturbance.

Fritz and McQuade are expected to make their first court appearance Tuesday at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

 

Augusta couple pleads not guilty to murder, robbery

Dirty

AUGUSTA, Maine — An Augusta man and woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder, felony murder and robbery in the Nov. 23 death of an Augusta man.

Zina Marie Fritze, 27, and her boyfriend, Michael Sean McQuade, 45, were indicted last week by a Kennebec County grand jury on charges of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder, felony murder and robbery.

Tuesday’s appearance at the Augusta Judicial Center was their first since the indictments.

Felony murder is a crime for which someone is charged when they are alleged to have caused the death of someone while committing murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, gross sexual assault or escape.

Both will remain in jail without bail pending February hearings, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings determined.

Another man, Damik Davis, 25, of Queens, New York, was arrested and charged with murder the day Joseph Marceau’s body was found. Davis remains in at Kennebec County Jail.

The body of Marceau of 23 Winthrop St., Augusta, was found Nov. 23, 2015, in a fourth-floor apartment rented by Fritze and McQuade at 75 State St., in Augusta.

Police have called the death a drug-related homicide, but Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, who is prosecuting the case, said following the arraignment that the felony murder charge results from the allegation of robbery and that neither Fritze nor McQuade are charged with any drug-related crimes.

Alsop said no decision has yet been made about whether to seek to join the two cases.

Immediately following Davis’ arrest, police began searching for Fritze and McQuade. They were were located, questioned and released by police two days after the homicide.

However, they were arrested by Augusta police Friday on unrelated charges and have been held in jail since then. The felony indictments were announced Monday.

Fritze’s attorney, Darrick Banda, declined to comment on the current charges, having just been assigned the case Monday. Attorney Andrew Dawson, who represents McQuade on lesser charges of theft, appeared Tuesday with McQuade, but another attorney will be appointed to represent him on the murder charges, Billings said.

Augusta murder suspect dies after being found hanging in jail cell

Zina Fritz, 27, charged with murder stemming from death of Joseph Marceau

Zina Fritz, 27, who was charged with murder stemming from the death of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta, on Nov. 23, died Wednesday, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.Fritz was found hanging by a bed sheet in her Kennebec County Jail cell Wednesday afternoon, McCausland said.

She was taken to MaineGeneral in Augusta, but died in the ambulance.

Fritz’s death will be investigated by Maine State Police and the attorney general’s officer per state protocol, McCausland said.

Fritz and her boyfriend, Michael Sean McQuade, 45, lived in the apartment at 75 Washington St., Augusta, where Marceau’s body was found.

Fritz and McQuade pleaded not guilty in court on Tuesday and were ordered held without bail.

 

Michael Sean McQuade, defendant in Augusta murder, facing burglary, theft charges

Michael Sean McQuade, 45, of Augusta, was charged Friday by a grand jury in Kennebec County with two counts of burglary, six counts of burglary of a motor vehicle, and eight counts of theft by unauthorized taking, all between May 1, 2015, and Nov. 10, 2015, and all in Augusta.

An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that there is enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial.

McQuade pleaded not guilty Jan. 26, 2016, to the prior indictment charging him with murder, felony murder and robbery, in what police say was a drug-related crime.

McQuade’s girlfriend, Zina Marie Fritze, 27, who also was indicted on the murder and robbery charges, committed suicide in jail on Jan. 27, 2016, after she too pleaded not guilty to those offenses.

Marceau was found beaten to death Nov. 23, 2015, in the Washington Street apartment that had been occupied by McQuade and Fritze. Another man, Damik Davis, 26, of Queens, New York, who was arrested shortly after Marceau’s body was found, also pleaded not guilty to murder in three separate forms — intentional or knowing or depraved indifference — as well as felony murder, murder, and robbery, all related to Marceau’s death.

Two men to be sentenced Monday in beating death of Augusta man

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Damik ‘Doughboy’ Davis and Michael ‘Dirty’ Sean McQuade both blamed a third man, Aubrey Armstrong, for the killing of Joseph Marceau.

AUGUSTA — Two more men are to be sentenced Monday in the Nov. 23, 2015, drug-related bludgeoning death of Joseph Marceau, 31, of Augusta.

The hearing is set for 1 p.m. at the Capital Judicial Center.

Damik “Doughboy” Davis, 28, of Queens, New York, and Michael “Dirty” Sean McQuade, 47, of Augusta, pleaded guilty 11 months ago to felony murder and robbery in the Augusta killing and signed agreements with the state that spelled out their sentencing parameters.

The agreements said they would cooperate with prosecution of others in the case.

A third man, Aubrey Armstrong, 29, of Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, was sentenced on July 13 to 30 years in prison for felony murder and a concurrent 29 years for the robbery.

Under Maine law, a person is guilty of felony murder if he or she commits or attempts to commit a felony – murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, gross sexual assault, or escape – and this causes the death of another person.

Justice Daniel Billings said there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Armstrong personally of carrying out the murder.

It is not clear who administered the fatal blows to 31-year-old Marceau in the trash-strewn, fourth-floor apartment on Washington Street from which McQuade and his girlfriend Zina Fritze had been evicted. Fritze committed suicide in jail a day after pleading not guilty to the murder charge.

Davis and McQuade blamed Armstrong for the fatal beating. Armstrong did not testify at his trial.

Billings unsealed the two cooperation agreements Friday. The agreements, signed Aug. 22, 2017, say that the murder charges against Davis and McQuade will be dismissed when they are sentenced on the felony murder and robbery charges.

Davis agreed to a sentence of 30 years – 10 years suspended. He was not called to testify at Armstrong’s trial.

McQuade, who testified at Armstrong’s trial and said he saw Armstrong beat Marceau to death, agreed to a sentence of 25 years, with 10-15 years suspended.

McQuade also is to be sentenced on a series of burglary, theft and burglary of a motor vehicle charges to which he previously pleaded no contest.

McQuade testified that Armstrong wanted to rob Marceau of 5 grams of heroin and that McQuade and Fritze accompanied Davis, Armstrong and Marceau to the apartment.

He said he saw Marceau standing with his back to the entry door and Armstrong and Davis facing him.

“Immediately a milk bottle came smashing down across Joe’s head,” McQuade testified. “It was like a nanosecond, then Doughboy came smashing down with a chair across his head.”

McQuade said during the first 10 seconds Marceau hollered for them to “just take it,” meaning the drugs, but the beating didn’t stop.

 

Two more men sentenced in 2015 murder case

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – Two more men were sentenced Monday for their involvement in the 2015 murder of Joseph Marceau

.Michael “Dirty” Sean McQuade received 12 years in jail for his guilty plea of felony murder and robbery.

Damik “Doughboy” Davis got 20 years behind bars on the same charges.

The sentences were reduced due to cooperation in the investigation from both individuals.

Maine Assistant Attorney General John Alsop says there were no surprises, as they reached deals beforehand.

“Both cases – these outcomes were something that we agreed upon some time ago,” says Alsop. “Both of these gentlemen agreed to cooperate and testify against Mr. Armstrong.”

The defense teams were also satisfied with the deals reached.

“I think that Michael McQuade realized that this is a terrible tragedy and has taken responsibility for that, so I think it’s been good that there’s been closure for both him and the family,” says Andrew Wright, McQuade’s defense attorney.

“Mr. Davis received a 20 year sentence,” says Stephen Smith, Davis’ defense attorney. “We’re pleased with the outcome. It was a negotiated outcome.”

Aubrey Armstrong was given 30 years in jail earlier this month for his role in the murder.

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

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