ELLSWORTH — Hancock County Jail inmates lost access to a recovery coaching service for the past six months after Sheriff Scott Kane canceled the contract of a nonprofit agency that issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kane said this week that his decision was based on the violence that occurred at some protests organized to demand an end to police brutality. “That decision was made in the height of the rioting and the looting and the burning that Black Lives Matter was associated with,” Kane said.

The jail is still offering other recovery services to inmates, Kane said. They include counseling, a medically assisted treatment program and Eastern Maine Development Corp.’s workforce program.

Healthy Acadia’s June 10 statement said, “We stand together with Black Lives Matter.”

“We are dedicated to responding to community needs and addressing the many barriers to public health,” the statement said. “And we know that one of the most devastating barriers to health is racism. We know this not only because we witness the devastating impacts of police brutality on Black, Indigenous, and Latinx lives, but also because we see the tragic impacts of discrimination and racism on social determinants of health and health outcomes.”

Healthy Acadia issued a second statement 12 days later after hearing the sheriff’s concerns, but that was not sufficient to sway Kane, who cut off the group’s contract.

“People don’t seem to understand or want to understand, I’m not a racist person,” Kane said this week. “But Black Lives Matter, that organization, wants to harm law enforcement.”

Black Lives Matter is a decentralized organization that led demonstrations around the country last summer after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in in Minneapolis. Some Black Lives Matter activists have called for defunding police, or shifting funds from law enforcement to support social justice and social services.

Elsie Flemings, executive director of Healthy Acadia, provided a written statement in response to questions this week.

“When we heard from Sheriff Kane that he was offended by our statement, we listened,” Flemings said. “We adjusted our statement to better reflect the position we hold: we affirmed that the lives of Black people matter and that we stand against all forms of violence and hate.”

Recovery coaches, according to Flemings, provide an opportunity for inmates to develop an action plan for their release as well as work on their recovery.

Kane said he has found a new vendor to provide recovery coaching services and expects that to resume shortly.

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