Some at the local level are voicing concerns.
The head of the Maine DOC submitted this proposal to lawmakers recommending regionalization of the 15 county jails, but Maine sheriffs argue that's not the right solution.
"You know, the bottom line is jailing people is an expensive ordeal," said Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce. He added members of the Maine Sheriff's Association are concerned. He stated "It's an insult to the sheriff's that are doing the best they can to control their costs."
The Maine DOC wants to close five of the older, smaller jails that need a lot of work and create a quasi-independent jail commission that would oversee facilities in three regions.
DOC Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said "You can really combine your energies and your efforts and come up with efficiencies." Fitzpatrick stated it will save money, fill empty beds, and even add services for inmates. He added "You can start developing some specialized programs, perhaps substance abuse programs or mental health intervention."
"We're talking about the assumption you could close down Androscoggin County Jail, Oxford County Jail and expect that police officers in the western part of Maine would drive to Portland or Wiscasset. Makes no sense at all." stated Sheriff Joyce.
Fitzpatrick stated the pros dramatically outweigh the cons and this is the best long term solution. He said "I don't think we can ignore that for the last 10-15 years this has been a major topic and the reason it keeps coming back before the legislature is that the system is broken."
Joyce argues there's a better way to fix it. He said "Let's start looking at the system and rebuilding the system and locking up people that belong in jail and not having it become the default mental health hospital."
Fitzpatrick reiterates this is just a proposal. What happens next is up to the legislature.