AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Corrections released new details Wednesday of a proposed $150 million renovation and expansion of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Corrections officials said the expansion would allow the department to close or consolidate several other facilities and house more inmates at the Windham facility, saving the state an estimated $10.5 million in operational costs annually. Officials said the project would also expand treatment for substance abuse and sex offenders, create new geriatric “pods” for older male and female inmates, and help address the space crunch for Maine’s growing population of female inmates.

The $149.7 million price tag outlined Wednesday to the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is down from the $173 million estimate provided last month.

Corrections officials asked an architectural engineering firm that had drawn up earlier plans for an expansion to look for additional cost savings as the department seeks legislative approval for a bond measure to finance the project.

Testifying Wednesday, Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick told committee members that the nearly 100-year-old Windham facility is in need of significant repairs.

“When a facility gets to 100 to 125 years old, you can only do so much,” Fitzpatrick said. “The bottom line is there are parts of the facility that are just falling in because of the age.”


Under the proposal outlined Wednesday, the department would:

• Replace most structures at Maine Correctional Center with buildings capable of housing 736 male and 243 female inmates. The existing prison holds 675 inmates.

 Close the Southern Maine Women’s Re-entry Center in Alfred and relocate the female prisoners to a new re-entry center under construction on the Windham campus.

 Consolidate the Mountain View Youth Development Center and Charleston Correctional Facility, both in Charleston, into a single facility serving 295 prisoners.

 Close the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport because of significant maintenance and upgrade costs.

In response to concerns raised by Down East lawmakers about closing the Downeast facility, corrections officials are exploring other options for maintaining a facility in Washington County to help inmates transition back to life and work outside of prison. Labor unions representing correctional workers have also opposed previous plans for closing Downeast and expanding Windham because of anticipated job losses.


One issue certain to garner considerable debate in the Legislature is how Maine would finance the $149.7 million expansion in Windham.

Fitzpatrick and other corrections officials prefer to use government facilities bonds that do not require voter approval but generally have higher pay-back costs. Several members of the Criminal Justice Committee have said Maine voters should decide whether to borrow more money for the prison through the general obligation bonds that appear on statewide ballots.

“I’ve never been supportive of government facilities (bonds),” Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, said during a discussion on the funding mechanism earlier this month. “I think it bypasses the people. They need to have a voice on this.”

Fitzpatrick said that decision is ultimately up to the Legislature. But he has questioned whether Maine voters will support borrowing money to spend on prison inmates.

“I think it is so complicated that there is no way to give it a fair hearing at the voting booth,” Fitzpatrick told the committee on Wednesday. “But that’s why we took the time with the committee. This committee has the authority and they represent the voters to do the right thing for the system.”

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, which would then send the measure to the full Legislature.


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