Are Maine Prisons Out of Control?
Stan Moody of Manchester, ME, former Maine State Representative and most recently a Chaplain at Maine State Prison in Warren, is devoting his time to forcing transparency and accountability in Maine·s prison system«A prolific and published writer, Dr. Moody is pastor of the Meeting House Church in Manchester and has been a frequent speaker on human rights issues at conferences around the nation«
April 13, 2010
Maine, the State with the lowest incarceration rate in the nation, appears to be losing to suspicious death a disproportionate number of prisoners from within its segregationfacilities. This seems somewhat odd in view of the concerted effort that the Department of Corrections undertook over the past month to defend itself against legislative bill LD1611,an initiative intended to put reasonable restraints on the use and abuse of segregation withinMaine·s prisons. Under the time-worn idiom of circling the wagons, the Department pulledout all the stops in opposing the bill, succeeding in reducing it down to a resolve to study itself. A highly respected Captain at Maine State Prison broke down sobbing at the hearing,accusing the sponsors of the bill of insulting the good people in Corrections, insisting that hehad never maced anyone. That theme was picked up by the Hon. Rep. Richard Sykes of Harrison, who was heard on the House floor to accuse supporters of the bill of insulting those good people at the prisons who ´«put their lives on the line every day,µ a debatablepremise.
Not only did the Department call on scores of employees to testify against the bill,they corralled numerous others to wear protest stickers and lobby in the halls of the StateHouse, an uncomfortable picture of the activities of our state employees. On the day theHouse was first expected to debate the bill, employees reportedly were ordered that they were to put on the stickers and report to the 2
floor of the Capital building, presumably taking the treasured ´Comp Timeµ to avoid the lobbying restrictions imposed ongovernment employees.
Yet, 3 people have died within the past year either within segregation or barely out of segregation. First, Sheldon Weinstein ² Jewish, brilliant, wheelchair bound and a dropoutfrom Boston University Medical School ² died of a ruptured spleen On April 24, 2009, within about 2 hours after I requested that he be given toilet paper. His death is reported tohave been the result of an assault received 4 days earlier. Then Victor Valdez, segregatedunder suspicious circumstances, was rushed from segregation to the Infirmary at Maine StatePrison and was reported to have died there. Now comes the case of George Magee at the Androscoggin County Jail, who hanged himself over the weekend in a segregation cell atReceiving in full view of security. He was placed there under observation for refusing hismedicine. Yet, he is reported to have hanged himself with pieces of ripped bed sheets.
What is going on here? If you are not safe in segregation, where can you be safe within a prison?
Two of these prisoners ² Weinstein and Magee ² were convicted sex offenders. Weinstein had confessed to molesting a family member, and Magee had violated the termsof his probation by living with a woman with minor children.
Let me share with you what I believe in going on here.
As a Chaplain, I became instrumental in breaking up a loosely-held gang in theMedium Custody Unit at Maine State Prison that called itself the ´Rat and Skinner Patrol.µ