Manchester, ME 04351207/626-0594Stanmoody1@aol.com
Maine DOC: A Culture of Fear
An MSEA officer once jokingly said to me during my sojourn as a chaplain at MaineState Prison, ³You don¶t have to be a rocket scientist to work here!´ Having been something of arocket scientist early in my career, I took that comment to heart as I contemplated my exit.Former Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner, Marty Magnusson, later askedme what I meant by the DOC being a ³culture of fear´. My explanation was that they were afraidof prisoners, afraid of law suits, afraid of staff members blowing whistles and afraid of wordleaking out that ³corrections´ is, with a few notable exceptions, a product of a spin cycle.
Out of a Charles Dickens Novel:
Century culture is an anomaly in a day when transparency and accountabilityhave become the new face of government. That the very taxpayers who fund state and countycorrections in Maine at some $300M a year have no right to ask ³Why?´, as the landscape isstrewn with bodies and broken lives, has to be something out of a Charles Dickens novel.Convicted sex offender and probationer, Scott Penney, by committing suicide(
,admittedly cut off his own path to healing and redemption, leaving in his trail broken hearts andlives ± his family, a victim and her family and those like Pauline Dube who took a chance onemploying him and became his friend. The DOC, by treating him as a statistic and his death as ahazard of the game, continues to dance around its mission in the same way it has with the recentdeaths of Victor Valdez, Sheldon Weinstein, Tom Hart and numerous others.The DOC to Scott¶s Mom, Linda Penney: ³You need grief counseling!´
echnically Right but Ethically Wrong:
The wagon circlers are right when they say that Scott¶s Probation Officer (PO) did notcause his suicide. The cause was mental illness. Nevertheless, the system has become sodefensive and self-protective that it has lost sight of the humanity of the public it serves. Itfunctions too often from the gut-level perspective of stereotypes, sex offenders being classed asthe most incorrigible but actually having a recidivism rate way below that of other offenders.PO¶s run the gamut from the compassionate to bounty hunters. I have witnessed PO¶sgoing to great length to be both cop and confessor to their clients. I personally have experienced being called by a PO to intervene in a client¶s case to keep him from going back to prison for four years at a cost of $56,000 a year.On the other hand, there are PO¶s such as the one in Kennebec County who reportedlysits outside bars in the middle of the night to catch his clients violating the no-alcohol mandate.
No Winners in
his Game of Chicken:
Who wins in this game of chicken? Certainly not the taxpayers of the good State of Maine! We continue to stuff away into cells and put onto lists our offenders, releasing them tothe care of underfunded PO¶s with no legislated standard of performance. The result is reflectedin a 58% recidivism and probation violation rate, as reported by the Muskie Institute in 2008.The answer lies in what does not work.