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At a turning point

By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 9, 2011

When he ran Walpole the Globe quoted Ponte, "I like being boss." Now, if legislators confirm him, his only boss will be LePage, who told the Phoenix in an e-mail he's looking forward to "learning from his expertise and outside perspective."

Still, though Ponte could be poised to reform the prison system, in the end the governor and the Legislature will or will not provide the money and basic direction to make the big things happen.

The corporate-prison question

Several Democratic legislators have hinted that Ponte's Corrections Corporation of America connection is part of a stealth campaign to turn Maine into a private-prison state. CCA gave LePage's campaign $25,000, LePage has said he wants to help Milo attract a CCA prison for federal inmates, and Ponte owns pension stock in CCA.

But LePage and Ponte say they don't intend to privatize Maine's public prison system. If CCA did business in Maine, Ponte suggests, he could get rid of his stock. The CCA issue is likely to come up at his February 14 Criminal Justice Committee confirmation hearing.

(For background, see "LePage Interested in Corporate Prisons," by Lance Tapley, December 17, 2010.)

Lance Tapley can be reached

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