Rep. Tuell Rejects Proposal to Close Washington Cty. Jail

 Earlier this week, the LePage administration released a proposal that would close jails in Androscoggin, Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, and Washington counties, as facilities around the state grapple with shortages in the number of available beds for inmates.

 “I am not going to mince words here,” Rep. Will Tuell (R-East Machias) said. “This is crazy. We have been down this road before. It didn’t make sense ten years ago when Governor John Baldacci proposed it, and it doesn’t make sense today with the LePage administration putting it forward. On one hand, we’re seeing more crime, more people going to jail, going to prison, more demand that we be tough on crime, and yet we’re in this race to close down jails and prisons? If we legislators go along with this, we’re saying Maine is Open for Crime.”

 Tuell, who is also fighting to keep the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport open, sees this as a double blow to Washington County.

 “So we’re going to take every bed out of Washington County and ship people who knows where, and we’re going to put dozens of employees out of work, and we’re going to be forcing law enforcement in Washington County and other rural counties to take time off the beat to transport people hours’ drive away when they could be working other cases. It’s a lose-lose-lose no matter how you cut it. And I think in Washington County particularly, it’s a double whammy with all that’s going on with the prison.” 

The proposal would need to be approved by the Legislature before it can be adopted. A private hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27 in Augusta.

 “It looks an awful lot like what the Baldacci administration put forward ten years ago,” Tuell said. “Many of us from the county, to sheriffs around the state, to legislators at the time, to local officials spoke out against it then,” he said. “We shouldn’t be sitting on our hands now, and I don’t think people will. We need all of these facilities, and all of us, and the people we serve, need to be loud and clear on that one regardless of who’s putting it forward.”