Tuesday, 13 February 2018 07:52

Jail closure economic impact ripples through region Featured

Written by 
Rabinowitz, Julie

MACHIASPORT - Washington county's economy took a hit FRiday when Governor LePage closed the Downeast Correctional Facility.

While the loss of nearly 40 jobs is significant, some local businesses relied on the prison to supplement the work force.

"I can assure you that this has been a huge step back in the rehabilitating of these inmates," said Ann Grange, a teacher at the jail who got her lay-off notice Monday morning.

.The impact of the economic ripple from the closure of the Downeast Correctional Facility is felt far beyond the jail's fences. Anywhere from 30 to 50 inmates of the recently closed Machiasport minimum security jail participated in the work release program. In fact, during the past three years alone Whitney Wreath paid nearly $200,000  in wages to inmates.

"It's been absolutely crucial to our labor force. Percentage wise it's a relatively small percentage," Whitney Wreath owner David Whitney said during an interview Monday.

.Business owners praised the work ethic of the inmates.

"The work release program has provided a lot of flexibility, especially in a tight labor market," said David Bell, general manager of Maine Wild Blueberry Co., located in Machias.

Because of the lack of notice about the closure, more than one business was caught without a plan.

Lobster Trap vice president of operations Tom Platt said, "Well, we were officially shut here in Machiasport and Addison, two of my three facilities in Maine. We had no employees to safely and properly work so the doors were basically closed,"

Monday, no longer able to rely on inmate employees, the managerial staff of the lobster trap was pulling lobsters from the water.

Some people say they are tired of the county being used as a ball in the political ping-pong game.

"If this is the end, then this state has a problem because we allowed a governor to run as a dictato," said Kevin Millay, a Downeast Correctional Facility retiree.

Meanwhile miles away from coastal Downeast Maine, politicians in Augusta continue to debate whether there's a future for a jail in Machiasport.

Late Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the governor said, within the next few months plans will be announced for a Department of Corrections work release program to be located somewhere in Washington County. No further details were

available.

 

TJ Tremble

Reporter
[email protected]

T.J. Tremble joined WVII ABC 7 and WFVX FOX 22 in March 2016.

He was raised in Bangor, attended Bangor schools and graduated from John Bapst High School. He attended the University of Maine, studying political science.

He started his news career at the Camden Herald, many years ago. He also worked for the Bangor Daily News in Rockland, Belfast and Bangor.

He entered broadcast journalism as news director for WQCB-FM, Brewer. For Many years he worked behind the scenes in radio and television.

Recently, he worked as a news reporter for Zone Radio Corporation in Bangor [WZON-AM, WKIT-FM and WZLO-FM.

He has received reporting awards from the Maine Press Association, Maine Association of Broadcasters and the Maine Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

He is married, with three adult children and two grandchildren.