AUGUSTA — More than two dozen people turned out Monday to oppose a proposed disciplinary policy governing inmates in the state’s prisons.

No one spoke in favor of the proposed rules at a more than two-hour hearing held before Maria Lucia, an employee of the Maine Department of Corrections, who drafted the policy.

She said before the hearing began that the policy was designed to streamline the disciplinary process and to add new violations.

Lucia said that she could not elaborate on the updated policy until the comment period ends on Nov. 6. She said that on that date the department would respond to questions and comments. The proposed policy must be reviewed by the Maine Attorney General’s Office before it can go into effect.

Individuals who spoke at the hearing criticized the policy’s ban on soliciting and communicating with pen pals and members of the media and on an inmate having his or her writings posted on a blog or social media site by a third party.

Inmates in Maine do not have access to the Internet while incarcerated.


“I’m not sure if it’s unconstitutional, but it does strike me as unnecessary and, in some ways, counterproductive,” Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said. “How does isolating prisoners from the outside world support rehabilitation? Also, if we restrict prisoners’ right to communicate with the news media, we eliminate the freedom to communicate about any misconduct, whether it’s true or false. If some have abused their free speech rights, then the DOC should deal with those individuals.”

The ACLU of Maine urged the Department of Corrections to withdraw the proposed rules, or to substantially modify them before putting them into effect.

Zachary Heiden, an attorney with the ACLU of Maine, criticized the notice of the changes and the lack of details in the announcement published in newspapers and on the department’s website.

“The law calls for proposed policy changes to be accompanied by a fact sheet that explains what the changes are and why they are needed,” he said.

He also said that many of the rules limiting contact with the media and forbidding solicitation of and communication with pen pals have already been litigated and found to be unconstitutional.

“These new disciplinary rules will have a negative effect on the ability of prisoners to communicate and interact with the world outside of prison,” he said. “The rules will prevent prisoners from establishing new relationships or strengthening existing relationships, and they will undermine prisoners’ ability to access information and to access the justice system.”


James Schatz of Blue Hill, the former Democratic representative who in 2010 sponsored a bill to outlaw solitary confinement, also opposed the proposed rules.

“These rules will tend to isolate inmates more than required and create a kind of isolation that could be equal to solitary confinement,” he said.

Rachel Talbot Ross, head of the Maine Chapter of the NAACP, urged DOC Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick to include community members, inmates and the family members of inmates in the policy-writing process as his predecessor Joseph Ponte did.

Mark LaFlamme: The First Amendment, locked in a cage

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.