As low staffing levels persist, York County will continue to board prisoners at Cumberland County. Tammy Wells Photo

ALFRED — Up to 30 inmates a day who should be housed at York County Jail will continue to live at Cumberland County Jail instead of the Alfred facility for the next six months — and perhaps longer — because of a staffing shortage.

As of Jan. 3, there were 27 vacancies for corrections officers at York County Jail. That is slightly better than February 2019, when there were 34 vacant spots. But still, the gain is not enough to re-open a closed wing (called a pod in the corrections industry) of the jail, and on Jan. 2 York County commissioners renewed their contract with Cumberland County.

In so doing, the commission agreed to continue paying a $65 boarding fee per inmate, per day, for the next six months — about $350,000.

“Will six months be enough?” asked York County Commissioner Allen Sicard.

“I don’t think it’s likely we’ll be (fully) staffed,” by the end of the six month period, York County Manager Greg Zinser responded.

Commissioner Michael Cote, who was elected chairman for the year by his peers at the meeting, wondered if asking Cumberland County for a year-long contract might be a consideration. Commissioner Richard Dutremble said that couldn’t happen because the county’s fiscal year ends on June 30; the proposal went nowhere.

York County Commissioner Michael Cote was named chairman on Jan. 2. The board that day also voted to extend a jail boarding contract with Cumberland County. Tammy Wells Photo

The first contract signed with Cumberland County for boarding prisoners was in November 2018 for a four-month period. In the spring of 2019 it was renewed until the end of 2019. The contract signed on Jan. 2 lasts until July 2, but it is unclear if at that time staffing will be up to standards that would allow York County to bring the inmates home.

York County Jail is budgeted for 76 positions. With 27 vacancies, there are 49 full-time officers, which includes supervisors as well as corrections officers.
York County Jail Superintendent Michael B. Vitiello said the inmate census on Jan. 2 included 182 in-house, with 47 others at Cumberland County or in other locations, like Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

York County Jail isn’t the only correctional facility looking for staff. According to online job sites, Somerset and Cumberland counties are both advertising for corrections officers, as it the Maine State Prison in Warren  and its affiliated locations. Across the border, the New Hampshire Correctional Facility at Berlin is looking for staff, along with Stafford County in nearby Dover, New Hampshire, among others.

York County Jail corrections staff new hires start at $16.80 per hour, but Zinser pointed out that with shift differentials, the rate is closer to $18 an hour. He said he is working with the National Correctional Employees Union to try and increase pay rates. New officers also get a sign-on bonus of $1,500, paid out over two intervals.

Those hired are trained at county expense and earn a salary during the training period.

 

 

 

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