Washington County Democrats Respond to Downeast Injunction

 In response to a temporary injunction granted by Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy against Governor LePage’s unilateral attempt to close Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, Washington County Democratic lawmakers issued the following statements:

 “I am very relieved that Judge Murphy saw that the governor overstepped his authority when he shut down the facility without legislative approval,” said Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais. “Downeast was a model for how to reintegrate prisoners into society. They were getting confidence and hope to prepare for life outside of prison. There is a lot of damage to undo from the governor’s action.”

“The governor was wrong to close the facility, especially in the underhanded way he did it, and I am glad the judge recognized that,” said Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals. “Lots of local businesses counted on Downeast employees, but more than that, local businesses and other organizations counted on the prisoners and the work they did in the community.”

 Legislation to fund Downeast Correctional Facility for an additional year is still pending in the House of Representatives after an initial vote of approval.

 LD 1704 "An Act To Fund the Downeast Correctional Facility" sponsored by Representative William Tuell, R-East Machias, was passed in the House by a vote of 87 to 59 and in the Senate by a vote of 31 to 3.

 The bill awaits final enactment in both chambers and action by Governor LePage.

 Justice Murphy’s ruling in part noted that: “Given the statutory language requiring the establishment of DCF in Washington County, the Legislature's decision not to continue to delegate the authority to close facilities to the DOC, and the Legislature's language in the biennial budget, the Court finds that the Legislature's intent was to retain the authority to decide which facilities should remain operational and which facilities should close. While it is within the Commissioner's discretion to determine how to operate the DCF program, only the Legislature has the authority to decide not to fund DCF and rescind the requirements set out in 34-A M.R.S. § 3901.”