AUGUSTA – On Monday, March 15, members of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted on the most recent version of LD 178, An Act to Support Reentry and Reintegration into the Community. In a politically strong 5-5-1 split, the bill now heads to the senate floor.
Senator Anne Beebe-Center, D-Rockland, sponsored this legislation which would restore parole as an option for reformed individuals to serve out the rest of their prison sentences in home confinement, under Maine DOC supervision. This would be the first opportunity incarcerated individuals would become eligible for such a program since 1976, when Maine became the first state in the nation to abolish parole.
Five committee members, Anne Beebe-Center, D-Rockland, Grayson Lookner, D-Portland, Nina Milliken, D-Blue Hill, Kristi Mathiesen, D-Kittery, and Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, voted in support of the bill. Five members, including Suzanne Salisbury, D-Westbrook, Donald Ardell, R-Monticello, Daniel Newman, R-Belgrade, Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, and Matt Harrington, R-York, voting against. Rep. Travis Hasenfus, D-Readfield, was the single vote to a proposed amendment. Two committee members, one from each party, were not present and have 48 hours to cast their votes.
Parole-4-Maine has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of this bill, which would redress Maine’s status as the only state in the nation with no meaningful sentencing review process. LD 178 is rehabilitative, victim-sensitive, and accountability-focused legislation. The bill has undergone repeated revisions to best address the concerns and needs of multiple stakeholders and interested parties.
During the public hearing for LD 178 in March, 302 people submitted testimony in favor of the bill, compared to 11 testimonies against and 5 testimonies neither for nor against. According to polling done by YouGov Blue on behalf of Parole-4-Maine, available as a PDF, Mainers are overwhelmingly in favor of parole with 83% of polled voters in support, given the fact parole costs nine times less than incarceration. (PEW documentation available as a PDF.)
LD 178 has earned support from Kevin Concannon, former Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Corrections under the Brennan administration, who wrote: “I testified in favor of a re-instituted parole system in 1981, and today believe strongly that a transparent and well managed parole system can benefit Maine citizens and taxpayers, correctional department staff and administrators, and ultimately motivate inmates who may accordingly be able to return to society, the workforce, and to their families and communities.”
The bill also has support from national leaders in criminal justice reform including: the National Alliance for Safety and Justice, REFORM Alliance, Parole Illinois, Common Justice, Campaign Zero, and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.
After Maine eradicated parole in 1976 as part of the tough-on-crime wave prompted by the Nixon administration, prison sentences in Maine doubled and the incarceration rate of women grew fifteen-fold. While the crime rate remained the same between 1979 and 1994, the prison population in Maine increased by 90%.
LD 178 would reinstate parole eligibility, allowing only those people who are evaluated by an independent panel of experts as posing no risk to society to be released to serve out the remainder of their sentences in the community, under careful DOC supervision.
Advocates of parole argue the real economic cost of incarceration: Maine taxpayers pay approximately $78,000 a year to keep a single person in prison. According to research by the Colby College Laboratory for Economic Studies, just 100 people released on parole each year would generate $14.7 million in increased economic activity.
Parole-4-Maine not only cites the real taxpayer relief provided by reinstating parole, but the opportunity to address racial disparities in incarceration rates and sentencing, recognize human dignity, and uplift the need for second chances within Maine’s prison system. They argue that after several revisions this spring, LD 178 prioritizes accountability and rehabilitation while ensuring the process is supportive of victims. It is the legislation Maine NEEDS to address both the harms of mass incarceration and its bloated price tag to Maine’s taxpayers.
For more information about this bill or to speak with someone from Parole-4-Maine, please refer to the speakers bureau or visit www.parole4maine.com.