Oxford County commissioners cancel special meeting on jail

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PARIS — A special county commissioners meeting scheduled Thursday to discuss the future of the Oxford County Jail has been called off.

The meeting was canceled Tuesday, after the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee met Monday to discuss recommendations to strengthen the county jail system. The recommendations were made by a blue ribbon commission, and Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter to the committee asking for extra money to keep the jail system intact. 

“We felt that we’d cancel the meeting and see what the outcome will be of the governor’s proposal and what the legislators are looking at,” Oxford County Commission Chairman Caldwell Jackson of Oxford said.

The purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to discuss options for the jail’s future, including a look at what it might cost the county to resume control of the facility on Western Avenue in Paris and run it as a full-time jail.

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In 2009, the jail was downgraded to a 72-hour holding facility as part of a statewide jail consolidation scheme that also capped the amount county property owners pay to fund jail operations at 2008 levels.

The jail has faced overcrowding and the high cost of taking inmates to jails around the state. At a commissioners meeting last week, Jail Administrator Capt. Edward Quinn reported that without more funding, the jail may be forced to lay off staff in the upcoming fiscal year.

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant said he was encouraged by the news that the Legislature and LePage were taking positions to shore up the state’s foundering county jail system. The reported court ruling on a lawsuit between the Somerset County Jail and Maine Board of Corrections that may open up more bed space is also cause for optimism, he said.

“We decided it was probably not a good time to sit down and have a meeting about looking into another direction when it looks like the problem may be getting resolved,” Gallant said. 

pmcguire@sunjournal.com

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