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The Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.
by Gabor Degre | BDN

“Maine faces a severe prisoner population problem. The number of inmates incarcerated in … county jails has grown far beyond expectations in recent years, stressing the capacity of existing facilities and showing no sign of slowing down.”

This statement could have been made yesterday by a county sheriff or state correctional official.

It was not. Rather, it is from the opening page of a 2004 report by Report of the Commission to Improve the Sentencing, Supervision, Management and Incarceration of Prisoners.

More than 15 years later, another task force on holding inmates who are awaiting trial has been reconvened. A task force that looked at improving the county jail funding system recently completed a report. Meanwhile, the number of inmates who have mental health and substance use concerns continues to swell.

And, this week, Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton told county officials that his facility would soon spend more than $1 million a year to house inmates at other facilities because the Bangor jail routinely exceeds its capacity. County officials are finalizing details on a proposed new, larger jail. We support a new facility with an emphasis on better meeting inmate needs. Not to hold more of them.

Suffice it to say, not much has changed in 15 years except for the increasing stress on county jails and their staffs. The overcrowding and lack of alternatives also harms inmates and their families.

An easy answer, of course, is to send fewer people to jail. While it sounds simplistic, it is the one answer that makes the most sense. Getting there, of course, is the difficulty. It will take time and money — and resolve.

Community treatment facilities — which were envisioned long ago by an agreement that shrank the state’s mental institutions — will need to be built and funded. More than three times as many seriously mentally ill Americans are in jails and prisons than they are in hospitals, according to a 2010 study done for the National Sheriff’s Association and Treatment Advocacy Center.

More judges need to be hired to move cases through the courts more quickly. More than two-thirds of county jail inmates in Maine are awaiting court dates. That’s nearly a two-fold increase since 1993. Many can’t afford bail, highlighting the need for changes to Maine’s bail system.

Maine has studied these problems for decades. It has a roadmap for solving them. What’s needed now is the political will — and yes, the money — to put recommendations made by several task forces and reviews into action.

It is important to note that this growing stress on our corrections system comes at a time when crime is down in Maine.

The total number of crimes reported in Maine dropped for the seventh straight year in 2018, according to data the Maine Department of Public Safety released in October. The total number of reported crimes has fallen by more than 40 percent in Maine since 2009.

Yet, in Bangor, the number of inmates in the county jail continues to exceed capacity. The Penobscot County jail has a state-approved capacity of 157 inmates, which it frequently exceeds. The Maine Department of Corrections has said it will soon enforce that limit to meet standards, which led Morton to warn Penobscot County Commissioners to expect higher bills for boarding out prisoners.

The jail has averaged about 175 inmates in recent days. In addition, the county has paid other correctional facilities to house about 55 inmates, a practice called “boarding out.” Nearly 100 people sentenced to serve time in the jail are living in the community on pretrial release under the supervision of Maine Pretrial Services.

While Penobscot County has the most chronic overcrowding problem, this is a statewide concern that requires statewide action.

Holding fewer people to jail is at the heart of the solution.

Because of the attention currently being given to the proposed enormous new jail in Bangor, this is a key moment for action.
Letters to the editor are needed. Doesn’t matter where you live. We need letters to call for changes (bail reform, issuing of more summonses, alternative sentencing programs, investments in community-based mental health services, etc), not ever-bigger places of incarceration.
A link to the “No Jail Expansion” group’s website is at the bottom of this message. We believe a better jail is needed in Penobscot County, but not a bigger one. Not a single additional metal bunk or locked cell. Mass incarceration has failed us. It’s been a disastrous waste of public resources, human potential and moral capital.
At some point, we have to draw a line and say…no more! This is the time. It’s not an issue solely for Penobscot County. It’s a debate for all of Maine.
Letters can be very brief. Just a couple of short paragraphs will do. I’m here to assist, if anyone wants ideas or help in drafting a letter. They can be quickly and easily submitted to the BDN using the link below.
Thanks for everyone’s time, concern and efforts.
Doug Dunbar
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Submit a letter or column — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Submit a letter or column — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Submit a letter or column page from the Bangor Daily News. Maine news, sports, politics, election results, and o…



“Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better” Maya Angelou

To view this discussion on the web visit

Hey all, it’s Sundog reporting on the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m stayin inside MCC A-POD. I first gotta let you know the most important. If you plan on being here, plan on plan on being stuck here for a couple of months. It’s taking them so long to place us. I know that everywhere you look it’s over full. You’ll see for yourself. I am working on my fourth week so far. I can’t stand A-POD. And to think another five to eight weeks before I get to where I’m going sucks. The longer you stay in A-POD is when you start POD Jumping, because they need to circulate us.

The reason behind being so full: First us Drivers! Third of us in here are for driving. One way or another we get the most time. I could have robbed a store at gun point and gotten the same amount of time. I drove a mile and a half down the street delivering christmas presents and got robbed. They are throwing the fuckin book at me. It was all fun and games till I got classed medium for a driving offense. I’m waiting to hear back from an appeal. I’ve never been medium. This means I can either stay here OR go to MSP. I will choose to stay here if need be. I’m hoping I get to go to Charleston. Fingers crossed. There is a ton of people here for either Drugs, Driving, or Skinning. That’s been the majority of the crimes.

I’m hoping to recruit some more people to write to the website. If you’re a good writer our there I would love some mail!


Please show your support! Write to:



Why are our jails & prisons so overcrowded up here in Maine? Let’s ask Daniel Fortune, who’s doing two life sentences! Course, I always thought the idea was a life for a life! Who did he kill? Nobody! Wait – he almost killed someone? No! He wasnt’ the one with the machete – that was Leo. Leo already copped to that & he got 50 years. Danny got two life sentences! Only in Maine! Big business kills lots of people, shit – do you think the executives of BP will do any jail time? Course not! And they’ve done more damage than dumbass Fortune! Yeah, Maine!

– From “Trik”
MDOC# not provided

I am currently incarcerated at the Maine Department of Corruptions in Windham, Maine. Prior to this I had done no jail time, county time included. The first thing i got to experience was the state’s “overflow tool,” the Pods. A place in which all walks of prison community get to mingle, from minimum security inmates to maximum security inmates. Apparently the aim of these pods is to give the staff to classify our security level, which takes anywhere from 4-8 weeks. I got to spend 6 weeks in the pods.

From there I was placed in a program called the “Supervised Community Confinement Program,” essentially house arrest. I came into this program with very high hopes of success. But as the days went on, I got to witness the manner in which things were carried out. I was informed of a 96% success rate, but later was informed that placement in halfway homes were included in this figure. In the time that I have been here I have seen approximately 8 men leave, 3 of whom actually went home. This has been very discouraging to say the least. False hopes hurt, but the worst part is the hope it provides to my fiancee and 8 month old son. Such matters do not really seem to hold imperativeness to the staff here.

I am unsure to validity of this comment, but I assume such a program must bring in some sort of federal funding. I say this because I receive a stipend check from the state every month for just being a body in the program, no work, no schooling, just being there. There are certain things that must be completed to attain the house arrest. One being an enlightening course called, “Thinking for a Change,” that teaches such priceless skills as listening, asking questions and assessing high risk thoughts. And the other being an intensive outpatient program for alcohol/drug dependency.

Being in here, many of the question I have are left unanswered. Such as, is there federal funding? Are such placements of house arrest pre-determined? What is the rate of individuals sent home on house arrest? Granted most of the questions cannot be answered through any amount of research or records accessible to the public, it may easy my mind a bit. Other issues I have are overstaffing, word is there are 3 dieticians and 9 cooks. Hard telling not knowing, I guess. Or my roommate was a master carpenter; he worked in the wood shop for 1.10 an hour. Top of the line work is almost an understatement, my question is, the sale of such work from an artisan, where does the money go? To us the inmates or paying wages?

I guess really I just want to provoke thought into you. We pay very high taxes in Maine, and after seeing a jail work from the inside, I think I see how deep the rabbit hole really goes.

– Josh McKay
MDOC# 05820

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Political Prisoners

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

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

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