Sheriff Kevin Joyce outside of the Cumberland County Jail in February 2022. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Cumberland County Jail again began accepting all new inmates this week, nearly eight months after Sheriff Kevin Joyce imposed major intake restrictions in the face of staffing shortages.

Joyce said he was able to resume normal operations this week after a hiring push, along with a recent decision to close one section of the jail.

“We recognize that the jail’s mission is to house inmates in a safe and secure manner, but also to be open to any lawful arrests made by the police departments of Cumberland County,” Joyce wrote in a statement. “We take that obligation seriously and strive to do so, while also looking out for the health and safety of our corrections officers. We still are asking police officers to be judicious and consider summons over arrest when appropriate.”

Joyce’s decision to close the jail in September for all but the most serious offenses, including domestic violence and assaults on a police officer, drew controversy and occasionally frustrated police. After a man allegedly assaulted Portland officers shortly after being released following an OUI arrest in October, interim Portland Police Chief Heath F. Gorham publicly criticized the policy.

“This is beyond frustrating,” Gorham said in a statement after the incident. “Something has to be done soon as this policy is putting our officers and our community at risk. We were fortunate there were no serious injuries.”

But Joyce said opening the jail would endanger his understaffed team, which in September was down 87 workers out of 185 authorized positions. The vacancies forced remaining officers to work up to three overtime shifts per week to keep the jail running, even after Joyce attempted to maximize the jail’s limited manpower by limiting the lengthy intake process.

Cumberland County has taken several steps to supercharge its hiring efforts, including bringing in a full-time recruiter and doubling sign-on bonuses to $4,000 for qualified applicants, according to a memo the Press Herald obtained in September.

Hiring remains slower than he’d like, Joyce said in his statement Thursday. But with about 10 officers either currently attending or waiting to attend the corrections academy, he’s finally comfortable opening the jail’s doors.

Joyce was not immediately available Thursday to answer questions about what the improved staffing situation might mean for the jail’s relationship with the U.S. Marshals Service, which in September moved 40 federal prisoners from the jail. The federal inmate contract was worth about $2.65 million.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story