State’s DCF Numbers Raise More Questions Than Answers

By Sarah Craighead 



Governor LePage has gone on record saying that he closed the Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) because it was too expensive to operate. 

“That prison costs more per prisoner, minimum security prison, costs more to hold and imprison than the maximum security prison in Warren,” said LePage in an interview with WGME last week. 

Prison insiders have long refuted this claim, and then in response to an injunction filed against the governor, the Department of Corrections (DOC) supplied them data they needed to support their case.

Exhibit A in the DOC’s injunction response contains 10 years of prison budget data for the entire state. Between the years of 2008 and 2012, DCF’s costs were indeed the highest in the state. Washington County Commissioners Chairman Chris Gardner remembers that in 2010 and 2012 Governor LePage looked at whether the facility should be closed.

“2010 to 2012 were high [cost] years, so the men and women who work there really went to work at finding ways to lower the costs,” said Gardner. “It’s not coincidental that 2013-2017’s [budgets are] all on a downhill curve.”

LePage’s press secretary Julie Rabinowitz said that data also supported the governor’s case, and used it to compare the cost of DCF to other facilities using a 10-year average. “Specifically, across the last 10 years, DCF cost an average of $44,148 per inmate, per year while Maine State Prison cost an average of $43,773 per inmate, per year.”

“I reject that argument, and I think the governor should too,” said Gardner. “The irony is, he could be taking a victory lap here.”

Averaging the five years from 2013-17, DCF cost $41,684.80 per prisoner. The Maine State Prison in Warren averaged $42,432 in the same time period.

“Since that first attempt at closure, DCF has righted the ship, and for the last five years has been consistently in the middle of the pack,” said Gardner. 

Rabinowitz said that although other state prisons have work-release programs like DCF’s that also return 20 percent of inmate earnings back to the general fund, the Department of Corrections does not track those numbers.