Maine prison warden apparently no longer in charge


PORTLAND (AP) — The warden of Maine’s largest prison apparently no longer runs it, three years after becoming the first female warden of the all-male prison.

Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte went to Patricia Barnhart’s office at the Maine State Prison in Warren and fired her Thursday, according to Jim Mackie, staff representative for the union that represents 600 corrections officers in Maine. The union does not represent wardens, but Mackie said he heard from prison staff members who were present when the commissioner told Barnhart of the decision.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jody Breton declined comment. Barnhart could not be reached for comment.

Rep. Mark Dion, co-chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said Ponte told legislative leaders on the committee last week he was planning a leadership change, but he didn’t explain why.

Barnhart was appointed as warden in 2009, coming to Maine from the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Mich., where she was acting warden. The Maine State Prison has a capacity of 914 inmates and a staff of 410, according to the department website.

Barnhart came under scrutiny in 2011 when she and her partner bought three parcels of land in Thomaston from the state for $175,000, far below the assessed value of $283,000. The sale was later invalidated by the attorney general.


Mackie said that under Barnhart’s watch, the Maine State Prison and the minimum-security Bolduc Correctional Facility, which she also oversees, received a perfect accreditation score from the American Correctional Association.