AUGUSTA — Overcrowding in Maine’s jails can be alleviated by allowing nonviolent inmates to serve sentences at home while wearing electronic monitoring bracelets, Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday.

LePage mentioned the issue during a televised forum in Bangor, saying nonviolent offenders and people struggling with addiction and mental illness should be allowed to serve their sentences outside of prison so they can access treatment.

LePage’s comments came on the same day he re-affirmed his support for capital punishment for drug dealers.

He said the proposal will be part of a comprehensive package aimed at addressing Maine’s overcrowded correctional system. LePage plans to submit a bill when a new legislature meets next year.

Jails in Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin counties have had the worst overcrowding problems in the state, in part because of an influx of inmates with mental health issues, and increased court filings.

Some counties, including Kennebec, Somerset and Cumberland, have recently started using electronic monitoring systems for a limited number of inmates.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said using monitoring bracelets can save taxpayers more than $100 each day per inmate compared to keeping them in jail, but some victims, police departments and prosecutors have criticized their use, saying being confined to a home is not enough punishment.

He said the system is set up so police are notified whenever people leave their homes. It can also be programmed to allow people to visit a doctor or treatment center, and to notify police if the wearer strays from a designated route.

Kennebec County interim Sheriff Ryan Reardon said monitoring programs can be helpful, but they also shift the burden of compliance from the jails to patrol units. The monitoring systems and bracelets are also costly, he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.