Maine corrections officials tout holistic approach to drug treatment after prison renovation

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At the Maine Correctional Facility, a century-old medium-security prison in Windham, old buildings are still being demolished. Liberty on site Tuesday. The department has invited the press to tour the Windham facility, the renovation of which has become an unheralded issue in this year’s gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Janet Mills and her Republican challenger – and ruling predecessor – Paul LePage, who questioned what happened to his six-year plan to expand the drug treatment facility. The prison is currently testing Liberty’s philosophy to reduce recidivism. Liberty was appointed by Mills in 2019 after a career in law enforcement, corrections and the military. Liberty said: “We know that residents who come into our care have issues of substance abuse, mental health, trauma, poverty, neglect, all these issues of things. The question is, how can the Maine Department of Corrections make our community safer? And we can do that through programming and processing.” ment focuses on 61% of Maine prison inmates who suffer from substance abuse disorders, 45% opioid addiction. “It really is an environment that has been designed in a modern way to provide comprehensive services,” said Ryan Thornell, Deputy Commissioner of MDOC. “They are prescribed medication, they are enrolled in treatment counseling services, they have access to peer support.” The refurbished Windham Prison has a new medical wing with full-time doctors and nurses and a room for dental appointments. bedroom with children’s play area. In the new classrooms, inmates can earn high school and college diplomas through federally funded Pell Second Chance Grants. say, ‘Hey, if the house opens up next to me, I want him to be okay with being my neighbour,'” said Peter Servido, who oversees the education program. “So our goal is to bring them here, educate them, open doors, set them free and become productive members of society again.” Most of the 350 men currently incarcerated in Windham will live in new 80-person pods, with cells with bunk beds, separate showers, games tables in the common area and telephones for outgoing calls. The prison has a capacity of 613 inmates but currently houses 463 men and women, most serving sentences of less than five years. The renovation budget was In 2016, then-Governor Paul LePage signed the law funding the renovation of the prison. The project began in 2018 and went over budget “In 2019, when the new administration taken over, the plan for this project was about $75 million over budget, and so, to be fiscally responsible, we had to rethink and reset,” Liberty said. Thus, LePage’s plan to create 200 new beds primarily for drug treatment was scaled back. drug addicts in Windham,” LePage said. “This governor just abandoned the project.” But in reality, a new philosophy had taken hold. “Really, the gold standard isn’t about beds, it’s about standardization,” Liberty said. — seven for adults and one for minors — currently have about 800 empty beds, Liberty said. population,” Thornell said of inmates with substance abuse issues. “They come in with a myriad of factors, and so when you’re going to deal with one factor separately, just putting people through one drug treatment program, or just putting people through one treatment program, you ignore the variety of other factors at play that also need attention and support.” Over the past three years, 1,000 Maine prison inmates who have been treated for a substance abuse disorder have been released, and Thornell said two-thirds of them stuck with their rehab plan. “We’re trying to replicate service delivery to what’s happening in the community, to what’s proven to work in the community,” Thornell said. Liberty said 30% of Maine inmates return to custody after release , twice the national recidivism rate of 65%.The Windham construction project is on track for completion next year.

At the Maine Correctional Facility, a century-old medium-security prison in Windham, old buildings are still being demolished.

“The majority of the buildings were built in 1919 and extremely old, really unfit,” Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said at the scene Tuesday.

The department has invited the press to tour the Windham facility, the renovation of which has become an unheralded issue in this year’s gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Janet Mills and her Republican challenger – and ruling predecessor – Paul LePage, who wondered what happened to his six-year-old drug treatment facility expansion plan.

The prison is currently testing Liberty’s philosophy to reduce recidivism.

Liberty was named by Mills in 2019 after a career in law enforcement, corrections and the military.

Liberty said: “We know that residents who come into our care have issues with substance abuse, mental health, trauma, poverty, neglect, all of those things. The question is how the Maine Department of Corrections can make our community safer? And we can do that through programming and processing.”

Treatment focuses on the 61% of Maine prison inmates who suffer from substance abuse disorders, 45% opioid addiction.

“It really is an environment that has been designed in a modern way to provide comprehensive services,” said Ryan Thornell, Deputy Commissioner of MDOC. “They get prescribed medication, they are enrolled in treatment counseling services, they have access to peer support.”

The refurbished Windham Prison has a new medical wing with full-time doctors and nurses and a room for dental appointments.

There is a new visitation room with a play area for children.

In the new classrooms, inmates can earn high school and college diplomas through federally funded Pell Second Chance Grants.

“Ninety-eight percent of all the residents we have in our care are going to be released one day, and our education goal is to say, ‘Hey, if the house opens next to me, I want him to be okay with him being my neighbour,” said Peter Servido, who oversees the education program. “So our goal is to bring them here, educate them, to open doors, set them free and become productive members of society again.”

Most of the 350 men currently incarcerated in Windham will live in new 80-person pods, with modest cells with bunk beds, separate showers, games tables in the common area and telephones for outgoing calls.

The prison has a capacity of 613 inmates but currently houses 463 men and women, most serving sentences of less than five years.

The renovation budget was $150 million, although $8 million was spent on reopening the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, MDOC director of operations Gary Laplante said.

In 2016, then Governor. Paul LePage signed the law funding the renovation of the prison.

The project started in 2018 and went over budget.

“In 2019, when the new administration took over, the plan for this project was over budget by about $75 million, and so, to be fiscally responsible, we had to rethink and reset,” Liberty said.

So LePage’s plan to create 200 new beds primarily for drug treatment was scaled back.

Two months ago, at the July 25 press conference in Augusta where he was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, LePage complained that Governor Mills had torpedoed his plan.

“We were going to build a facility to detox drug addicts in Windham,” LePage said. “This governor just abandoned the project.”

But in reality, a new philosophy had imposed itself.

“Really, the gold standard isn’t about beds, it’s about standardization,” Liberty said.

Due to a lower incarceration rate, the state’s eight prisons — seven for adults and one for juveniles — currently have about 800 empty beds, Liberty said.

“If we just had to separate them into one housing area and provide treatment for a very small population, we would be neglecting the needs of the whole population,” Thornell said of inmates with addictions issues. “They come in with a myriad of factors, and so when you’re going to deal with one factor separately, just putting people through one drug treatment program, or just putting people through one treatment program, you ignore the variety of other factors at play that also need attention and support.”

Over the past three years, 1,000 Maine prison inmates who have been treated for substance abuse disorders have been released, and Thornell said two-thirds of them have stuck to their rehab plan. .

“We’re trying to replicate service delivery to what’s happening in the community, to what’s proven to work in the community,” Thornell said.

Liberty said 30% of Maine inmates return to custody after release, twice the national recidivism rate of 65%.

The Windham construction project is expected to be completed next year.

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