After Being Closed Off, Maine Prisoners Can Now Communicate With Outsiders

by | March 1, 2016

By Judy Harrison

The Maine Department of Corrections on Monday issued its revised inmate discipline policy that reverses previous practices that prisoners, advocates and lawyers had said were unconstitutional, particularly restrictions on communicating with the outside world.

Changes, according to a news release issued by Deputy Commissioner Jody Breton, include allowing inmates to:

-- Post comments on social networking or blogging sites through a third party unless it jeopardizes safety, security or orderly management of the facility.

-- Correspond with pen pals.

-- Report and/or publish articles under a byline for news media.

At a hearing in October, more than two dozen people opposed the proposed disciplinary policy, which forbade inmates from doing any of those things.

Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick took into consideration comments from advocacy groups and individuals prior to signing the new policy, Breton said in the news release.

Other changes include allowing the chief administrative officer to offer a prisoner a contract agreeing to good behavior and satisfactory program participation in return for a suspension of a disciplinary disposition. It also removed self-infliction of bodily injury from a list of disciplinary violations.

The release also said that the new rules ensure that mental health staff are consulted for input in disciplinary actions that affect prisoners who are mentally ill.

The new policy will be available on the Secretary of State's website at www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/rules.html, the Legislative website at http://mainelegislature.org/publicrulemaking/ and the Department of Correction's website at www.maine.gov/corrections/contactUs.shtml.

(c)2016 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)