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Criminal Justice Committee

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Why the prison warden got fired

Getting Answers
Corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte told the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee on January 16 that, because of state personnel law, he couldn't publicly say — until severance negotiations are finished — why he had fired, six days earlier, Maine State Prison warden Patricia Barnhart. She has said she can't say why, either.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 23, 2013

Gangs study killed

Lawmaker Apology
On February 9 the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, which had already informally decided against LD 1707, the bill that would have created severe penalties for people associated with criminal street gangs, killed a substitute proposal for a study to be done on how to define gangs and how to have police share information on them.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 15, 2012

Gang-buster bill gets dissed

Tattoos As A Criminal Act
A controversial legislative proposal developed by a secretive police group would send an individual to prison for up to 40 years if he or she is convicted of asking someone to join a criminal street gang.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 25, 2012

Reform comes to the supermax

New commissioner cuts population by more than half; prisoner-rights advocates help in the reform
Less than three months into his job, Maine's new corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has begun to dramatically reform the Maine State Prison's long-troubled solitary-confinement "supermax" unit.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 25, 2011

Corporate prison bill 'carried over'

Inmate Exile Dept.
Although LD 690, A BILL TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR "EXILED" PRISONERS TO RETURN TO MAINE , was killed May 6 by the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, political activist Ron Huber, who had pushed it, declared "victory in Augusta" on his Facebook page.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 12, 2011

Lock-up lessons

The new corrections commissioner wants Maine prisons to learn from the state’s juvenile-treatment model
Fixing Maine’s troubled prisons is not an impossible task. In fact, if the state treated adult inmates more along the lines of how it treats juvenile offenders, prison critics — including, surprisingly, the new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte — think the prisons might not only become more humane, they might actually “correct” the prisoners.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 14, 2011

LePage kisses the Phoenix

Valentine's Day
We are savoring the moment. It won't last long.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 23, 2011

At a turning point

LePage's nominee to head Corrections has the skills to fix Maine's broken prison system. Will the governor and lawmakers give Joseph Ponte the tools?
When Joseph Ponte was told that Maine's longtime corrections commissioner Martin Magnusson had once informed the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, after a dramatic hostage-taking, that there were "probably 300 inmates right now with a weapon in their hand" — and that nobody at the committee meeting seemed disturbed by this information — Ponte's reaction was "I would be extremely perturbed by that."
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 09, 2011

Penal future

Will LePage's zeal to cut the budget make prisoners and guards bleed?
The few things that Republican Governor-elect Paul LePage was reported as saying on crime-and-punishment issues during the campaign mostly sounded harsh and, of course, right-wing.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 10, 2010

Are doctors complicit in prison torture?

The Maine medical community looks at solitary confinement
In the past few years an outcry has arisen over the involvement of military and CIA medical professionals and psychologists in torture. Some critics have even suggested criminal prosecution of the medical staff involved or, at least, revocation of their professional licenses.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 21, 2010

A ‘moral victory’ against supermax torture

At times the legislative debate on LD 1611, the bill to limit solitary confinement of the state’s prisoners, became surreal.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 15, 2010

Maine tortures women, too

But Riverview presents an alternative
The Maine Department of Corrections is an equal-opportunity torturer.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  March 10, 2010

The cost of torture

Solitary Confinement Bill Hearing
In the end, whether mass solitary confinement continues at the Maine State Prison supermax may come down to an issue of money rather than right or wrong. And resolving that issue may come down to whether the state wants to pay more now to pay less in the long term.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 25, 2010

Seeking humane treatment

State and national efforts well under way
Some Maine people are taking moral responsibility for the way supermax inmates are treated.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 17, 2010

Anti-solitary campaign expands

Stopping Supermax Torture
As the February 17 State House public hearing approaches on the bill to restrict solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which sparked national debate about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, has announced its support.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 03, 2010

Corrections disobeys another federal court order

Solitary Confinement
For decades, as it has with other court orders, the Maine Department of Corrections has apparently been breaching a 1973 federal court’s decree that forbids disciplinary solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison beyond 10 days for minor offenses, or 30 days for major ones.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 16, 2009

Limiting Supermax solitary

 Legislation Drafted
Representative James Schatz, a Blue Hill Democrat, has proposed legislation to tightly limit when prisoners can be kept in the solitary confinement of the 100-man Supermax unit of the Maine State Prison in Warren.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 08, 2009

Miraculous Appearances

Phoenix questions prompt action
Two weeks after the Phoenix began its prison Board of Visitors interviews, which revealed the group had not produced annual reports as required by law and had not met with the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee in years, reports for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 suddenly materialized.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  August 17, 2009
monkey list

Secret, unaccountable, and co-opted

If the prison Board of Visitors had done its job, it might have helped prevent several recent tragedies
The state prison in Warren has been hammered in recent months by an inmate murder and other violence, a prisoner hunger strike, legislative investigations exposing mismanagement and poor guard morale, and a request by human-rights groups for a federal probe of prisoner mistreatment.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  August 17, 2009
prison list

Prison in turmoil

Investigators probe killing, stabbing, corruption allegations
Will reform have to wait for a new governor?
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 17, 2009

Baldacci rejects reform, embraces corporate prisons again

Prison watch
Awareness is dawning around the country that 30 years of lengthy, tough-on-crime prison sentences have constructed an unsustainably expensive penal system.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 21, 2009

Wave of reform

There is now a chance to fix Maine’s broken corrections system, but only if the public speaks up
A wave of change is moving swiftly toward Maine’s jails and prisons. It could bring major reform — or a bureaucratic jumble.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 06, 2008

Prisoners as commodities

Critics slam Governor Baldacci’s plan to ship Maine inmates out of state to a for-profit company
If Baldacci goes around the Legislature with an emergency order, a big division could open between the governor and the Legislature.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 25, 2007

Pressure rising

Supermax torture revisited
Four months ago, a Phoenix investigative series revealed abuses of inmates at the “Supermax,” a 100-bed, solitary-confinement, maximum-security facility inside the Maine State Prison in Warren; since our articles were published, several important developments have taken place.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  March 23, 2006

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