AUBURN — Cited as a facility that often exceeds state standards, the Androscoggin County Jail received a perfect score from the Maine Department of Corrections biennium inspection report.

The exterior of the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

Both mandatory standards and essential standards received perfect scores of 100.

In a letter accompanying the report, Ryan Anderson, manager of correctional operations and one of two people who inspected the facility, congratulated Sheriff Eric Samson on a “very successful inspection.” Anderson thanked the staff for their “hospitality, professionalism and patience throughout the inspection process.”

The review focused on areas such as administration, accounting and inmate records; training; safety and security; staffing and inmate supervision; admission and release of inmates; inmate classifications; inmate separation; inmate discipline; special management inmates; inmate communications; medical and mental health services; food services; inmate services and activities; inmate programs; release programs; sanitation and living conditions; and facilities.

Samson was appreciative of the results of the inspection, which took place June 9-10.

“Staff have overcome many obstacles this year in the performance of their duties due to COVID-related issues,” Samson said.

One of those issues included a brief hunger strike. Samson, Jail Administrator Jeffrey Chute and their staff reacted quickly and decisively when some inmates went on a hunger strike for one day last October and a couple of days in November due mostly to COVID-19 testing concerns. Testing of inmates and staff was already underway when the second hunger strike began.

The last inspection, performed in 2019, deducted one point on essential standards due to overcrowding. The COVID-19 pandemic has kept head counts at the jail below its rated capacity of 160 inmates.

“Historically, overcrowding has been a concern for the facility administration,” according to the auditors’ report. “Because ACJ is located in one of the state’s larger metropolitan areas, the census fluctuates much more than most jails. If the jail population once again overinflates, renovations could be done for temporary relief; however, the scale of those improvements is limited as the facility is located well inside the city of Auburn. At that time, other alternatives may need to be investigated.”

While reviewing policies, procedures and cleanliness, the inspectors talked with inmates and staff about various operations in the jail. An inspection of training records revealed “detailed daily appraisals” of employees’ “performances with positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.”

“It is evident the ACJ takes the development of employees very seriously,” the report said.

While state standards require one staff member to have current first aid training per shift, the Androscoggin County Jail requires all of its staff to be trained in first aid. All staff members are also trained in all areas of facility operations.

The jail conducts fire and evacuation drills quarterly, exceeding the state standard of once every six months. Emergency keys are tested monthly, far exceeding the state standard of once every six months.

Cells are searched daily. The report called this practice an excellent way to mitigate contraband.

“Inmates interviewed also acknowledged that the officers were respectful in the method in which they searched the cells,” the report said.

Jail staff was praised for its ability to hire and retain staffing levels. The jail only had two vacancies when the inspection took place.

Inspectors were impressed with the cleanliness of the facility.

According to the report, “The facility was observed to be very clean during the tour. Inmates interviewed had indicated that they clean daily as part of their routine. Floors in all of the corridors were immaculate. There were no signs of chipping or deteriorating paint in areas toured.”

The reported noted that the jail shares maintenance services with the county courthouse. Inspectors suggested that it would be beneficial to have a dedicated maintenance crew just for the jail.

Health care services are provided 12 hours a day, seven days per week, but the report said it would be prudent for the facility to staff an on-duty nurse during the night shift.

Anderson, who conducted the inspection with Veronica Grady, a nurse auditor, said he could not comment on the report without authorization. The media contact for the Department of Corrections, Anna Black, the director of government affairs, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

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