HALLOWELL — The Central Maine Pre-Release Center, which has operated at the Stevens School complex since 1979, will close.
The program, which has 58 inmates and 21 budgeted staff positions, will be moved to the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren, said Associate Corrections Commissioner Jody L. Breton.
The closing will have a direct impact on nonprofit organizations that benefit from the inmates’ free labor and on businesses that employ those inmates.
The Windsor and Augusta food banks, for example, benefit from such labor. Inmates from the pre-release center form work crews and participate in work-release programs, according to description of the center on the corrections department’s website. They have done an estimated 22,000 hours of free labor annually.
The center also houses prisoners in a substance abuse treatment program.
The loss of free labor will mean less fresh paint and maybe fewer improvements at the Windsor Fairgrounds, where inmates have worked for at least a dozen years.
Bob Brann, a trustee of the Windsor Fair and president of the Windsor Historical Society, said inmates “painted everything that’s painted down there,” and he’s never had any trouble with them.
“They move stuff for me, dig trenches by hand,” Brann said. “It’s the greatest gift for us. I do a barbecue for them because they like it and it’s a gift to us. It’s a small price.”
Brann said he has had five or six men work for as long as a month at a time, and intermittently throughout the summers.
Breton said corrections officials met Tuesday with the staff at the center to talk about the move, which is expected to be done over the next several months. She said the date of the closing hasn’t been set.
“This was not part of a budget initiative,” Breton said. “We will be transferring the positions and related correctional expenses to other facilities based on operational need.”
The Bolduc operation in Warren is a minimum security/community prison that generally houses prisoners with less than five years remaining on their sentences.
The Legislature previously authorized the Bureau of General Services to sell the 63-acre, state-owned Stevens School campus, which once included multiple state offices, by 2011. That did not happen.
Donald McCormack, director of the Bureau of General Services, said Thursday that the state still owns the property, which continues to house other state offices, including the Department of Marine Resources and human resources and financial offices for natural resources agencies.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: