Pink slips were given to all 46 employees at the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport this morning.
Despite a legislative committee in March voting to not close the facility, Governor LePage plans to close it down on June 10TH.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are condemning the Governor’s decision to shut down what they call a vital part of Washington Country’s community.
The facility has been considered for closure for years, but following the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety’s Committee vote to fund the jail, workers were breathing a sigh of relief.
But this morning, workers received notice they would be layed off and the facility would be shut down in a matter of weeks.
The Department of Corrections released a statement today saying the facility was outdated and too expensive to run.
Local lawmakers and a union rep shared their thoughts on what this means for the workers, the inmates, and Washington County.
Jim Mackie, of the AFSCME Council says, “His administration is denying it but we have been told from folks in Augusta that he plans to commute the sentence of 75 inmates and then 25 would be moved to other facilities. Our understanding is there’s only 25 open beds in the system right now. They have 100 inmates down there so 75 of them have to go someplace and we’ve been told that they’re going to be commuting the sentences of those folks.”
Senator Joyce Maker says, “I’m devastated with this news and the fact that we’re going to lose all those jobs. The economy in Washington county is going to go the dogs.”
Representative Will Tuell says, “I’m appalled at it quite frankly. I don’t think it’s needed, I don’t think it’s warranted, I don’t think it’s acceptable or whether it’s on a corrections level, an employment level, any other level imaginable.”
Inmates there spend a lot of community service hours working for the town, and local school and businesses, offering thousands of hours of free labor to Washington County.
The Department of Corrections says they will be moving all of Downeast’s inmates to other correctional facilities by June 10th.
Machiasport Selectman Jeff Davies says Governor LePage has had no communication with town leaders regarding the closing.
He says the town employs the inmates to do work for them like snow removal in the winter, beach clean up, and lawncare in the summer and that the town will suffer economically to replace those workers.
And more importantly Davies says, 46 members of their small community will lose their jobs.
Davies says, “You can imagine the impact this will have on Washington County and on this town. Some of those people are not old enough to retire so they’re in a bind, some of them are in a big bind, no job and they’ve been there for 25 years. There’s going to be some major repercussions down here economically.”
In addition to the work the inmates perform for the town, they also work for local businesses.
Carol Geel, HR Manager for Lobster Trap, says closing the facility is a devastating blow to their business.
The company issued a statement in part saying, “Today Lobster Trap is informed that Lepage is closing DCF and the rug has been pulled out from under, not only Lobster Trap but all the other businesses in Washington County. we have relied on the work release program for six years. This will not only impact our company but the employees at DCF and the Downeast community.”
Machias Town Manager Christina Therrien says there’s no reason financially why the facility should be closed.
A Union Rep tells TV5 they are working with attorney’s to get an immediate injunction to stop the closure.