Trending Topics

New discipline rules for Maine inmates unanimously opposed

Many at Monday’s hearing on the Maine Department of Corrections proposal said the proposal is too vague, would cause discipline problems at state prisons, and would damage efforts to rehabilitate prisoners

By Scott Dolan
Portland Press Herald

AUGUSTA — Every speaker at a public hearing Monday spoke in opposition to proposed discipline rules by the Maine Department of Corrections that would limit inmates’ ability to communicate with the outside world.

Nineteen people spoke at the two-hour hearing at the department’s central office in Augusta, including former inmates, family members of inmates, mental health representatives, a former prison guard, a legislator, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and a member of the NAACP of Maine, as well as other activists.

The department has proposed new rules mostly seeking to create bans or amend existing violations for adult and juvenile inmates related to commonly prohibited acts such as destruction of property, fighting, displaying gang symbols and possessing contraband.

But also included in the proposals for adult inmates are policies that have either already been rejected or haven’t been tried in other states, such as prohibitions on interacting with the news media, soliciting or communicating with a pen pal, passing or receiving written communication without authorization and social networking.

Most speakers focused their opposition on how limiting the ability of inmates to write to people outside their immediate family would be counter-productive to their rehabilitation.

Mary Lucia, policy development coordinator for the Department of Corrections, told the speakers at the outset of the hearing that it would consider all the remarks made during the hearing before developing a final draft of the proposed rules to submit for review to the Attorney General’s Office.

“It is not the purpose of this meeting today to respond to comments,” Lucia said.