PARIS — When Frank Cugliata’s one-year prison sentence runs out, he likely won’t be released.

A convicted murderer, Cugliata will face another stint behind bars under the remnants of a system periodically active, if largely unknown, and unique to him and 25 other Maine residents.

It’s called parole.

Cugliata, 62, of Porter, was taken to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham a few days ago. He was sentenced in Oxford County Superior Court on Tuesday to a year in jail after pleading no contest to weapon charges but could be out sooner with credit for time served.

In June, his parole officer found three guns — a revolver, a shotgun and a 9-mm pistol — at the residence he shared with his son.

Because the terms of his parole barred him from committing new crimes — felons are not allowed to have firearms or crossbows — the seldom-active Maine Parole Board will schedule a hearing later this year to determine whether Cugliata has breached the conditions of his release.

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If so, and it seems likely, according to Parole Board member Richard Harburger, the board must make a second determination: How much longer should he remain behind bars for a crime he committed in 1974?

“If someone is on parole for murder and is charged with a weapons offense, I would consider that pretty grave,” said Harburger, a sergeant with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. 

Harburger, who noted he had yet to review the details of the case and was speaking for himself and not the board, said the board has the flexibility to use discretion when determining how long that span should be. 

The federal government and 16 states, including Maine, have abolished the parole system; four other states have eliminated parole for all but violent crimes. Maine is the only state in New England to have done so. 

However, Cugliata and others like him are grandfathered into a system that maintains jurisdiction over those who committed crimes prior to the parole system being abandoned. 

Of the 26 in Maine under the system, four are serving life sentences for murder. The others, including Cugliata, have been paroled and are under supervised release by probation officers who double as parole officers. 

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Maine’s total prison/jail population in 2013 was 3,800, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice; another 6,700 people were on probation. 

The system changed on May 1, 1976, amid a “truth-in-sentencing” movement sweeping the country. Seven months prior, Cugliata and a co-defendant were sentenced to life in prison by a Lincoln County Superior Court justice after a jury found them guilty of killing a Massachusetts man they knew through drug connections. Cugliata was 21 at the time. 

The trio had taken Cugliata’s car north to Nobleboro to buy 10 pounds of hashish. Only two men returned from the trip: The bullet-riddled body of Vincent Serra of Medford, Mass., was later found, and Cugliata was arrested as one of two prime suspects. 

On Feb. 27, 1985, Cugliata was paroled by the board and released from prison with conditions similar to those of the probation system: no contact with the family of the victim, no use of drugs or alcohol, no possession of firearms and no new crimes. 

While the conditions for probation typically expire after a set number of years, for Cugliata they remain for life, meaning that any conduct breaching the terms of parole is cause to have the individual appear before the Parole Board at a hearing.

With a shrinking pool under its jurisdiction, board hearings are sporadic and scheduled only as needed. In the past two years, only a handful have been held, according to Lisa Nash, regional correctional administrator for Community Corrections. Though a hearing to review Cugliata’s case has not yet been scheduled, it will likely be in the near future, she said. 

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“These (parolees) are older people, who for the most part aren’t getting into trouble,” Nash said. 

Parole Board members are appointed each year by the governor. Current members include Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association; Assistant Attorney General John Richards; Charles Love; Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson; and Harburger. 

Most parolees were convicted of serious crimes such as murder and manslaughter, Nash said.

To be re-released, Cugliata would have to devise a board-approved parole plan designed to prevent recidivism, such as finding stable housing and a job. Upon release, parolees are supervised based upon the risk they pose, Nash said. For example, one parolee has advanced dementia, is confined to a nursing home and is observed less frequently than someone able-bodied. 

A call to Cugliata’s probation officer in Naples was not returned Thursday. 

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