I would like to express my gratitude to Bates College, the Harward Center, Bates faculty and Bates students on the incredible program presented at the “Chaos or Community: Conversations on Criminal Justice Reform in Maine” symposium on Saturday, April 9. I lost count of the number of times I was moved to tears by the presenters. It was powerful in content and in breadth, and important in building relationships.

It was particularly effective in bringing all sides of the criminal justice issue together. In the process, it became clear that the current trends in incarceration (Maine’s incarceration rate has increased 300 percent since 1980), take a terrible toll on individuals, families and communities. A reallocation of resources so that rehabilitation is available to all who seek it is essential. As Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck emphatically stated, “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”

I encourage the Legislature to listen to the voices of such experts and defeat laws that increase penalties for possession and pass laws that provide resources for community healing, such as the Medicaid expansion bill proposed by Sen. Saviello.

I offer a thank you to the Bates community for their long history of advocating for civil rights.

Jan Collins, Wilton, chairperson of the Legislative Work Group of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

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