A proposal from Maine’s Department of Corrections (DOC) may change state laws that prohibit the housing of adults in juvenile holding facilities.
Legislative Referendum (LR) 373, titled “An Act to Allow Young Adult Offenders to be Confined in Juvenile Correctional Facilities,” was submitted by the DOC for the first session of Maine’s 126th Legislature, which begins committee work this week.
The proposal would allow inmates aged 18 to 25 to be held in juvenile facilities with unused beds. Department of Corrections Associate Commissioner Jody Breton told The Bangor Daily News the proposal would improve rehabilitation services and provide more resources for younger adult inmates.
“It would allow us to provide more specific training to that age group,” she said. “There’s been a lot of research showing that brain development isn’t complete until age 25.”
She also said that the proposal would be a sound budget decision.
“It would be a better use of the space and more targeted programming for that segment of our population,” Breton continued. “We have capacity, so we wouldn’t be asking for any new positions or money.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine supports the legislation, with executive director Shenna Bellows stating that the idea, in principle, may allow young adults to access educational opportunities, which in turn may reduce recidivism.
A full proposal will not be ready until after Jan. 18, but the idea already has its detractors. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 93 spokesman Jim Mackie told The Bangor News that the idea is essentially a ploy to downsize the state’s adult correctional facilities. He also questioned whether staff and administrators could insure the safety of juveniles in facilities with adult inmates.
“I certainly cannot believe any parents in Maine with a juvenile in one of those facilities would want their children confined with older, long-term incarcerated individuals,” he said. “Mixing 18- to 25-year-olds with juveniles is a formula for trouble.”
Photo courtesy of the Maine Department of Corrections.