Senator Joyce Maker’s Monthly Column

In the Gospel of Matthew, an alternative for "an eye for an eye" is given by Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

We have turned our cheek many times down here in Washington County. We have lost many to other counties and states, including our own children. We have lost many to the opioid crises. Even so, we keep the faith and continue to move ahead and turn our cheek.

What happened at Downeast Correctional Facility earlier this month was more than many of us could handle. The staff, their families and businesses are hurting and we hurt for them. 

Will we overcome this? Yes we will, but it will take many years. 

As a longtime resident of Calais and the senator representing Washington County in Augusta, I am more determined than ever to fight for those who have been harmed by the premature closure of the facility.

Just last week, I was proud to stand up, along with a number of colleagues from both sides of the aisle, to speak in favor of Representative Will Tuell’s bill to fund the facility for another year. While it isn’t a permanent solution, this bill would give us time to work with the Department of Corrections on a solid plan for the future of corrections in Washington County. 

While the bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the Senate, it ultimately failed to get the 2/3 vote necessary for emergency legislation in the House of Representatives and the bill remains on the  unfinished business calendar as we brainstorm the best path forward.

But all hope is not yet lost. 

Two years ago a deal was reached between the Legislature and the executive branch on a government facilities bond to pay for upgrades to the Maine Correctional Center in South Windham and establish a prerelease center, similar to the program that has been run through DCF, in Washington County.

Although the project to upgrade the Windham facility is running behind schedule, $15 million of the bond money has already been spent, yet plans for the new prerelease facility are still unclear.

When the Legislature voted to support this bond, it is my understanding that the intention was for both projects to be completed before the closure of Downeast Correctional facility. That order was incredibly important because the corrections system faces a critical statewide bed shortage and the prerelease center would have served as an important employment opportunity for the dedicated guards who have served 20 + years at DCF. It would also have continued the important service of connecting low-risk inmates with gainful employment prior to being released back into society.

But that isn’t the reality that we are faced with today, which is why I have sponsored LD 1841, “An Act To Authorize a Prerelease Facility in Washington County.” 

Some will argue that this bill is unnecessary, but I think it’s important to do everything we can to make sure that our promises are kept and the bond is spent accordingly. 

While this is undoubtedly a trying time for many, please rest assured knowing that I am in this for the long haul and will be working for Senate District 6 until the last minute of the last day of my final year in office. God bless you all, Washington County and the State of Maine.

Senator Joyce Maker serves District 6 in the Maine State Senate which consists of all of Washington County and the municipalities and unorganized territories of Gouldsboro, Sullivan, Winter Harbor and part of the East Hancock Unorganized Territories.