In this March 8, 2017, file photo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a town hall meeting in Yarmouth, Maine. LePage plans to commute the sentences of some “lower-risk” offenders and help them find jobs, but he has not disclosed how many people would be released.. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine’s Republican governor announced plans Tuesday to commute the sentences of some “lower-risk” offenders and help them find jobs, but he has not disclosed how many people would be released.

Gov. Paul LePage’s office said the decision is not related to the recently announced closure of Downeast Correctional Facility in Washington County. LePage and the state corrections commissioner said Friday that the state would move 100 inmates from the “outdated” and “expensive” minimum-security Downeast facility to other state prisons.

LePage’s spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said LePage hasn’t signed any commutations yet. The review began this week.

But James Durkin, legislative director for Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said the union has heard that eight inmates will be released from the Maine Correctional Center on Wednesday and that 20 others will leave Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren.

Maine has the nation’s lowest incarceration rate and has approximately 2,000 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sen. Joyce Maker and Rep. Will Tuell, two Washington County Republican lawmakers who have long opposed the Downeast facility’s closure, say LePage lacks the authority to unilaterally shut down a state prison funded by lawmakers. LePage has proposed closing the facility as part of his $6.8 billion, two-year budget proposal, while a legislative committee has unanimously recommended keeping the facility open for two more years.

Opponents say the state lacks enough beds for the facility’s inmates. A representative of the Department of Corrections testified in March it has about 40 secure male beds open.

Maker said Tuesday she’s concerned about how many prisoners are going to be released, and where they’ll go.

“We’re going to have more people coming in right behind them, and where are they going to put them?” she said.

Bennett said the state will follow the normal procedure for alerting crime victims.

LePage said in a statement Tuesday that “conditional commutations are a part of a system-wide approach to a fiscally responsible corrections department that is committed to transitioning low-risk offenders into jobs and self-sufficiency.”

The governor’s office said any released offenders must agree to conditions like a curfew, refraining from criminal conduct, random searches for drugs and in certain cases, substance abuse treatment.

State Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick didn’t respond to request for comment. It’s unclear how the state will decide which offenders are “lower-risk.”


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