Oxford County seal. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

 

NORWAY — Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright told county commissioners Tuesday that more prisoners with sentences of nine months or less are being sent to Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset, which is costing the county more.

Wainwright said county inmates sentenced to more than nine months serve their time with the Maine Department of Corrections, while all others go to Wiscasset.

In September, seven prisoners were given nine-month sentences and sent to Wiscasset per a month-t0-month contract with Oxford County, he said.

If the trend continues, Wainwright said, the total inmate population from Oxford County will be in the 40s.

“Our headcount is going up, and we’re being charged for a higher headcount, and costs for boarding,” he told commissioners. “Our complaint was that it seemed a ton of prisoners were being given nine-month sentences, or consecutive three or four-month sentences. It comes directly out of our cost because nine months and a day goes to the state.”

Wainwright said some of the nine-month sentences were not appropriate, and the Sherriff’s Office recently reached out to District Attorney Andrew Robinson to see if there were any sentencing trends.

“We did talk to Andy to have him take a look at it and see if there were any patterns to see if it’s the same defense attorney or (assistant district attorney),” Wainwright said.

Robinson said Tuesday there were many factors that go into determining an appropriate sentence recommendation, including prior record, services provided to the individual, and the actual severity of the conduct.

“All those factors are ultimately gathered together,” Robinson said. “Then a recommendation is made to the court, and the court makes a final decision as to the final sentence.”

Robinson said thousands of cases go through the court system in Oxford County each year. He said while he understood why the Sherriff’s Office selected a few cases to make their point, each case is seen on an individual basis, and while the District Attorney’s Office is sensitive to the impact on the budget each case makes, the cost of housing an inmate is never the deciding factor during sentencing.

“The final decision isn’t based just on what will be the fiscal impact on the county budget versus the state budget,” Robinson said. “It has to be based on other factors.

“To hone in on a select few to make his point, I certainly understand that. It’s all about each and every case being seen differently. We’re sensitive to the impact on the budget each of our cases makes, and we try to be cognizant of it, but it cannot be the deciding factor.”


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