Parole was abolished in Maine in 1976 in an effort to elevate public perception of the criminal justice system. A nationwide push was made for harsher sentencing in what became known as Truth In Sentencing laws. Parole refers to the supervised release of prisoners before the completion of their full sentence, at the discretion of a parole board.

Maine, like the rest of the country, has seen a significant rise in prison populations and overcrowding, largely because of increased severity in sentencing. Although crime rates decline, prison populations rise. Overcrowding in prisons raises safety concerns for the residents, as well as staff, and further inflates costs.

Much has changed since the 1970s in the way of rehabilitating offenders. Maine prisons now offer counseling, job training and other programs such as the Second Chance Pell Grant, which allows incarcerated individuals to acquire higher education. With these improvements to rehabilitation programs, incarcerated people are able to leave prison better educated and more prepared to be healthy, productive members of society.

However, without the hope of being released, the motivation for acquiring new skills and bettering themselves is lost. We are no longer the same people today as we were 10 or 20 years ago, and the same is true for those who are incarcerated.

The longer an offender is in prison, the more likely they are to reoffend because of trauma experienced within the prison itself. People age out of their crimes. A discretionary parole system can reduce recidivism rates by allowing offenders to reintegrate gradually into society with a plan in place on how to be successful.

Parole offers economic benefits to the state of Maine. Prison is expensive, costing more than $200 million of taxpayer money to keep the system running. Parole can be a cost-effective solution and allow tax money to be reallocated toward our underfunded schools, early intervention services, guidance counselors and social workers trained to provide help to the most vulnerable of our population, our children.


In lieu of parole, Maine offers inmates the opportunity to apply for executive clemency. Clemency has the potential to grant an incarcerated individual a pardon or reduced sentence. The power to grant clemency lies exclusively in the hands of Gov. Janet Mills, a former prosecutor and attorney general, who has only granted it to a very small percentage of applicants. Maine already has a parole board in place to serve prisoners from other states who have been relocated to Maine with the opportunity for parole as part of their sentences. On June 9, 2023, Maine’s last eligible inmate was granted parole. The board now exists only to serve out-of-staters.

A common argument against parole is split sentencing, whereby a sentence is split between time incarcerated in prison and the remainder under outside supervision through probation. However, many convictions are not eligible for split sentencing, and judges make these decisions at their own discretion.

Maine was the only state reliant on private attorneys to represent defendants until this past month, when a brick-and-mortar public defenders office finally opened for the first time. Many people currently incarcerated were grossly underrepresented at their trials. Many were left in jail for extended periods of time unable to find a defense attorney or afford bail before ever being found guilty of anything. In order to leave jail, defendants will often plead guilty in the hopes of leniency, which they are often not given.

Reinstating parole would allow us to help rectify and address the stain of mass incarceration. Maine would be using resources already in place to better the lives of our residents. Parole would reunite families, better the economy, reduce prison spending and allow people who have been rehabilitated a second chance. It’s time to build a more compassionate society that rewards the efforts of those who have worked hard to learn from and correct their mistakes.

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