I am writing to express my concerns about a bill that is currently before our Legislature. L.D. 440 would build a mental health unit in jail for forensic patients, individuals awaiting mental health examinations to determine if they are able to stand trial.

In short, this bill would be placing innocent individuals in prison.

In the past, all correctional facilities in the state relied on Riverview Psychiatric Center to provide critical mental health care for inmates. However, with recent complaints and allegations against Riverview, a bill has been put forth to build a mental health unit within the jail.

Although this unit would be out of sight and sound from the general prison population, this does not detract from the fact that we would be placing individuals in jail, who have not been yet proven guilty by the court of law. We have built our criminal justice system on the idea of innocence until proven otherwise. By placing forensic patients in prison, we are criminalizing mental illness and promoting a stigma that is already ruining the lives of the victims it touches.

By passing L.D. 440, we are voting to allocate thousands of dollars to put a Band-Aid over our incredibly broken mental health system and ultimately ignoring the abuse, inadequate staffing and the poor physical conditions of Riverview.

I would like to believe we can do better than what this bill offers. Rather than turning a blind eye to the current issues, this money should be used to fix the problems at the facility that already exist.

I encourage all Maine citizens to reach out to their local senators and representatives. This is a bill that should not be passed, and we have a responsibility to voice our opinions and concerns.

Alexandra Meyers