AUGUSTA — Lawyers and other professionals who regularly visit the Kennebec County Jail might not be able to get access to inmates if they haven’t gone through a new screening process instituted by Sheriff Ryan Reardon.

The change stopped at least one attorney this week from completing her duty as lawyer of the day, a designation in which she represents defendants at the jail who have not hired their own attorney or had one appointed.

Augusta attorney Elizabeth Gray was refused entry to the jail on Monday when she was scheduled to represent defendants in initial appearances before a judge via video from the jail.

Instead of being at the jail in a room with the inmates, Gray came into the courtroom at the Capital Judicial Center to explain to Judge Eric Walker “why the jail won’t let me in” and why attorney Stephen Bourget had to represent all 17 defendants, rather than just half of them.

She said the jail personnel wanted to gather information and screen her before letting her in.

“I do lawyer of day a number of times,” she said, adding that most recently it was the previous week. She said she was told Monday that “my picture and my information needs to be posted in their internal system.”

She pulled out an attorney’s badge issued to her by the Maine Judicial Branch.

“That was not good enough,” she said, adding that an officer was unavailable to do the screening immediately.

Reardon, whose office runs the jail, said a notice about the change in the jail’s access policy – effective July 15 – had been posted for some time. One notice is dated June 7, 2016.

It affects those entering the jail for professional visits, including “lawyers or their authorized representatives, clergy, government representatives, mental health workers, licensed counselors or medical personnel with the intent of providing a service to an inmate,” according to the policy last revised on June 4, 2015.

“There’s been a warning up for two months prior that they need to get their picture and credentials in to be added to the new list,” Reardon said.

But it’s not clear whether any notice went out beyond the paper posted at the jail.

As for Gray, she is troubled by the new policy and does not plan to go through the screening process, and it’s not clear if that will affect her ability to serve as an attorney of the day.

“I understand the necessity of knowing who I am and asking for ID,” Gray said. “I have no problem with presenting my Board of Overseers identification and my driver’s license, but inserting myself into their internal system, mug shot included, is just too much of a police state for me.”

On Monday, after learning that Gray was had been denied access, he asked corrections officers to exercise their discretion with regard to attorneys entering the facility when they are assigned as lawyers of the day.

“We will be more flexible,” said Reardon.

Reardon said the screening process takes only minutes. The change does not affect other visitors to the jail, such as an inmate’s family and friends.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

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Twitter: betadams