AUGUSTA — The commissioner of Maine’s prison system says the state’s county jails are “on the verge of collapsing” and is calling for a state takeover.

In a three-page letter Wednesday to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte said the state is “well-positioned to take over the jail operations immediately.”

The Sun Journal reports that he says the state’s network of 15 county jails has enough room for all of its inmates but is poorly run, causing some counties to maintain dozens of empty beds while others are severely overcrowded.

The announcement comes as the Criminal Justice Committee is crafting a fix of the system, working from the report of a blue-ribbon commission initiated by Gov. Paul LePage.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins says he’s insulted by Ponte’s letter.

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