York County Jail Corrections Officer Jon Simonds displays a watch – one of hundreds of items left behind by those released from custody. Jail officials are trying to reunite people with their belongings and have set a June 30 cut off date for former residents to get in touch. Tammy Wells Photo

ALFRED — People departing York County Jail after spending time in a cell sometimes leave their belongings behind.

Items left at the facility include everything from mobile phones to sneakers, wallets, Christmas cards and other personal correspondence, clothing, watches, rings and more  —  like a duffle bag with family photos.

Jail officials want to get the items back to the owners, if possible.

Happy to be leaving custody, residents are often in a hurry, and so leave their items at the jail, York County Sheriff William King said. Or, if the individual is being sent on to the state prison, the items cannot be sent along with them — the sheriff said the state prison system has a policy of not accepting personal items upon transfer.

While jail policy allows officials to dispose of the property — it is considered abandoned after 30 days — they would rather get it back to the owners.

Corrections Officer Jon Simonds has been working on the project, part-time, for the past three months.


While some former residents he has contacted are happy to hear they can retrieve their items, others say they do not want them and authorize him to donate them to a shelter.

As it turns out, sometimes there is more left behind than they remember.

There are occasions when there are personal mementos that have meaning, either to the former resident themselves, or to a family member, as was the case in one recent instance.

Simonds was able to locate a relative of a former resident and in so doing learned the individual had died. But because he had been able to find that family member, a piece of jewelry went to the resident’s  son — as was intended.

So far, Simonds has been able to  find a resolution for 60 boxes of items.

“We’ve reached out and they’re grateful, and pick it up,” said Simonds. “Others ask what it is, and don’t want it.”


In one case, said Simonds, he was putting some clothing in a bag, when a small photo album fell out.

He got in touch with the woman’s probation officer, who in turn gave the photo album to the former resident — a happy ending.

Wallets, cell phones, clothing, and a host of other items are among those former York County Jail residents have left behind upon their release. Corrections Officer Jon Simonds has been trying get in touch with former residents to let them know their items are available. So far, he’s resolved 60 cases, but there’s a lot more to go. People who left items there are encouraged to get in touch with jail officials. Tammy Wells Photo

The items are expected to be available for the next couple of months. Jail officials have set a date of June 30 for them to be claimed. People who have spent time at York County Jail and have left items behind may call Simonds at (207) 991- 1748.

Every box contains information about the owners, but finding the individuals can be tricky and time-consuming — and there are many boxes stretching back many years.

“I found one former resident working in a restaurant in the Bronx,” said Simonds.

Some are hard to trace — like the owner of a wallet who was released from the jail in 2010.


In one case, a man who had been at York County Jail awaiting trial, was convicted, and sent to state prison, asked Simonds to give his clothing to a shelter. In another, the individual told jail officials he was authorizing his mother to pick up his belongings.

York County Jail Corrections Officer Jon Simonds surveys the boxes of items former jail residents have left behind when they leave the facility. Tammy Wells Photo

The unwanted clothing is bundled up and donated to programs which in turn, give  it to those who can use it. One such program is the Milestone Recovery Home Team, where outreach worker Torie Smith and others make their way from the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland to Deering Oaks Park, checking in with those who are unhoused, have mental health challenges, use disorders, and the like. Recently, Smith said she noticed a piece of paper at the bottom of another bag inside the first that bore the last name of a client.

“I know they must have tried to reach out to her,” said Smith. But the woman is unhoused, and so nearly impossible to locate — except for this happenstance.

Smith was awaiting word of when the woman was reunited with her belongings.

“(It’s a) beautiful coincidence. I think God had a bit to do with it,” said Smith.

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