BANGOR (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci’s plan to have the state take over Maine’s county jail system is drawing more fire, and one of the leading critics is the governor’s older brother.

Penobscot County Commissioner Peter Baldacci called the governor’s proposal “a step in the wrong direction.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s county commissioners’ meeting in Bangor, Peter Baldacci also called the plan “centralization in Augusta, not regionalization. The state is overly centralized when it should be regionalized.”

Officials from Penobscot and several other counties have tentatively planned a Sept. 27 meeting to tell legislators how they feel about the governor’s proposal, which would consolidate 15 county jail systems and the state prison system into a statewide system managed by the Department of Corrections.

Gov. Baldacci says the annual savings of $10 million in its first year would nearly quadruple to $38 million over time.

But critics including the Maine Sheriffs and Maine County Commissioners associations say the administration’s figures are flawed.

On Tuesday, Kennebec’s commissioners raised questions about the takeover plan’s financial implications. Commissioner Wesley Kieltyka also asked whether a takeover would affect the county’s proposals to reduce the number of inmates, some of which involve alternative housing.

In Piscataquis County, one of four whose jails would be closed under the takeover plan, Commissioner Tom Lizotte declared Tuesday, “This administration has declared war on rural Maine.” The other jails targeted for closing are in Waldo, Franklin and Oxford counties.

The chairman of the Somerset County Commissioners, Phil Roy, said a $30 million jail construction project in Madison will be halted if the state takeover goes through. The project was narrowly approved by county voters after the state threatened to close the existing county jail.

State Associate Corrections Commissioner Denise Lord said the governor plans to meet with Somerset County officials next week to discuss their concerns about the jail. Lord said Baldacci’s takeover plan would benefit all counties by essentially freezing their jail costs.

In eastern Maine, Hancock County Sheriff William Clark said he’s not opposed to the idea of jail consolidation, which he said could promote efficiency. But he said a takeover goes too far.

AP-ES-09-05-07 1006EDT


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