With Maine’s new corrections commissioner comes a plan to reduce the time inmates have with their loved ones.

When I asked why this is being implemented, Deputy Commissioner Jody Breton said the budget wasn’t the reason for reducing the length of family visits; rather, “it is only three hours a week at the (Maine) Correctional Center and eight hours a week at the (Maine State) Prison right now. From our perspective, an (medium-security) inmate is an (medium-security) inmate and should get the same privileges at either facility.”

How does that compare to the view of ex-Commissioner Joseph Ponte, who added two hours a week to the length of visits at the state prison because he understood the benefits to society of maintaining family connections to an inmate?

A multitude of studies prove that regular contact with family and loved ones significantly lowers recidivism. Why isn’t the Maine Department of Corrections, which touts program after program on local news and public broadcasting stations, doing more to foster family contact – as opposed to this recent attempt to sever family ties by shortening scheduled time together with an inmate?

Maine State Prison is in Warren, 60 miles from Portland. People drive there from as far as Caribou.

Reducing the visit schedule creates an added burden on families who already make it a point to spend the day or weekend in Warren to be with their loved ones because they understand the importance of maintaining a family connection.

Gas, meals and, in some cases, motels can be expensive in an area like Rockland – not to mention there isn’t any easy route to get there.

If the MDOC wants to reduce the head count in its facilities and work toward reducing recidivism, it should increase visiting hours at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham and leave well enough alone at the prison in Warren.

Michelle Sanborn