There are 1,675 people incarcerated in Maine and not one of them is eligible for parole.

When Maine abolished parole in 1976, the state began enacting some of the harshest sentencing practices in the country and eliminated any feasible path toward rehabilitation and reentry. That’s why I support L.D. 178: An Act to Support Re-entry and Reintegration into the Community, so those incarcerated in Maine will have a clear incentive for personal transformation, a structured course for reentry and a second chance for redemption.

There are currently only two ways to reduce a prison sentence in Maine, either with “good time credit” or through the Supervised Community Confinement Program (SCCP).

Good time credit can be earned through educational and vocational programming, but it only takes a few days a month off a sentence; for a lengthy sentence that accrued time would be negligible. According to research and advocacy center The Sentencing Project, lengthy sentences do nothing to reduce crime rates, and those with longer sentences who’ve committed violent crimes are the least likely to reoffend, so they would benefit most from the possibility of parole.

Some of those incarcerated in Maine are eligible for SCCP, during which individuals agree to serve the remaining 30 months of their sentence in the community under Department of Corrections supervision, but this is only a good option for shorter sentences. For example, a six-year sentence could be reduced by 42%, but a 60-year sentence only by 4.2%.

Not everyone eligible for parole will be granted early release. If L.D. 178 passes, parole would be open to anyone after serving one-third of their sentence, as long as they are not deemed a danger to society by the parole board. But those already working toward personal transformation, earning their postsecondary degrees, learning a trade and acquiring valuable skills could become part of Maine’s workforce.


With the ongoing labor shortage, parole is a good option for Maine’s economy.

According to Parole4ME, it costs $76,000 a year to incarcerate one person. Granting parole to just 10% of Maine’s incarcerated population would save taxpayers between $5 and $7 million. That saving could be put toward implementing more restorative practices that support victims and promote accountability and healing rather than punishment for offenders.

As a master of social work student at the University of Maine, I work with incarcerated students completing their postsecondary education. According to the Vera Institute, the odds of recidivism decrease dramatically as incarcerated people achieve higher levels of education. While pathways to higher education in this state have improved in recent years, without the option of parole, those with lengthy sentences may never get the chance to use their degrees or seek careers in their field.

Many of my fellow students want to give back, becoming drug and alcohol counselors helping others on the road to recovery, behavioral health professionals working with those who’ve also experienced trauma and abuse, and youth advocates fighting to prevent or redirect involvement with the juvenile justice system. But without the ability to complete internships, obtain licensure, or engage in professional networking, they’re at a huge disadvantage.

I have worked with students from correctional facilities across Maine who are earning master’s and doctoral degrees, becoming restorative justice facilitators, fighting for the rights of incarcerated parents and their children, working in hospice care, presenting at national higher education in prison conferences, training to become peer support specialists, and taking every opportunity for professional and personal development.

These are people who were incarcerated for mistakes made when they were teenagers, as victims of intimate partner violence, or because of untreated mental illness and addiction, not because they are inherently violent or dangerous.

These are some of the most talented, dedicated and passionate people I know, and they deserve the chance to participate fully as professionals, parents, voters and contributing members of the community. Together let’s restore parole to Maine and give everyone a second chance.

Correction (March 14, 2023): A previous version of this op-ed misstated the annual savings to taxpayers possible by paroling 10% of Maine’s incarcerated population.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.