Sheriff plans jail ‘Board of Visitors’

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Anyone interested becoming a member of the sheriff’s Board of Visitors can contact the sheriff at: Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: BOV Program, C/O Sheriff Guy P. Desjardins, 2 Turner St. – Unit #9, Auburn, ME 04210.

AUBURN — A new group may soon be advising Sheriff Guy Desjardins on policies and procedures inside the Androscoggin County Jail.

Desjardins hopes the volunteer “Board of Visitors” can help guide the county toward national accreditation, a recognition that few Maine jails have earned.

“It’s having another five sets of eyes who may be able to help,” the sheriff said. “They’ll be brainstorming.”

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Though it would be new for Androscoggin County, such boards have been operating in several other Maine counties, including Washington and Penobscot. Maine law describes them as groups of five people appointed and supervised by a sheriff.

Desjardins aims to collect resumes or letters of interest from people beginning as early as this weekend and throughout June. By mid-July, he plans to pick his top five applicants.

Ideally, he would like some professionals and some ordinary citizens. He figures people with backgrounds in medicine, mental health and counseling might be valuable, as would a member of the Somali community. 

People chosen would likely get a tour of the county’s 20-year-old jail, meet with some staff and potentially interview inmates.

“I think we’re going to start small,” he said.

The endeavor is also meant to back up his aim of transparency in the jail’s operation, Desjardins said.

He knows that recent controversies — including ongoing lawsuits filed by former guards against the county for harassment and cases of pranks among the guards — have given people cause for concern.

“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people here are doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

A group of interested people from outside the jail might find ways to make it better, Desjardins said.

However, the role of the Board of Visitors would be purely advisory. Any resulting changes would be up to Desjardins.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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