PARIS — In 2021 the Oxford County Jail underwent extensive renovation to upgrade from what for years had been used for 72-hour holds to a full time corrections facility. While people often do not consider the benefits that serving time close to home provide a community, a local jail can help maintain families and give more chance to those who are incarcerated once they are released.

“We were only capable of holding people for 72 hours ahead of appearing in court,” Jail Administrator Dana Dillingham explained. “Then they would be transported to other facilities we contracted with, Two Bridges in Wiscasset, to Cumberland County, or to the Androscoggin Jail. Now, they serve their sentences closer to home.”

The difference is that jail residents receive better support locally than in facilities that may require hours of driving for their families. They will be more likely to continue utilizing services offered in jail if they can continue working on changes with local mentors.

Asst. Admiistrator Lt. Kaitlin Armstrong is in charge of jail standards and services at Oxford County Jail, which was revamped to a full service corrections facility last year. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

To go from temporarily housing a handful of suspects to becoming a home for 40 or more people serving sentences or awaiting trial for months, last year Dillingham had to hire and train 11 new corrections officers to join the 12 who already worked there full time. One of those hires was  Assistant Jail Administrator Lt. Kaitlin Armstrong, who worked for the Maine Department of Corrections in several capacities. She holds a PhD in criminal justice from Liberty University in Virginia.

It is up to Armstrong to plan and execute programs for the 40 or so incarcerated residents. Since starting at the Oxford County Jail in the spring of 2021 before it reopened, Armstrong has become the lead person managing jail standards and daily life, from arranging for medical care to spiritual support, education, recreation, mental health and substance use recovery.

Armstrong has established a high school diploma program at the jail. When she began it more than a year ago, in partnership with Oxford Hills Nezinscot Adult Education, just one jail resident began taking classes. Currently there are four enrolled. Two have passed their equivalency exams. Armstrong says that a few have continued working toward their degree after being released.


“We have one religious service that I call Bible study that is more to read scripture,” she continued. “It tends toward Christian/Catholic (faith) but it’s not restrictive. And we have more of a church group, where people with any sort of religious background or no religious background, can come and support each other. That’s the more popular group, it’s more open and relaxed.

We also have a recovery group that comes in. It encompasses several programs, whether it’s for alcohol, narcotics, any sort of addictive background. It’s very open. Currently there is one guy who joined because he wants to quit smoking cigarettes.”

From left: Oxford County Jail Administrator Dana Dillingham, Cpl. Renee Shanks and Asst. Administrator Lt. Kaitlin Armstrong. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Armstrong leads enrichment activities, like a multi-media arts group. Next spring residents will plant a garden to raise salad vegetables for themselves. If a someone wants to request a certain snack added to the commissary or suggest an activity as reward in the jail’s monthly Incentives Program, they write her a letter. They write her thank you letters as well.

With the Incentives Program, once a month she will facilitate a group reward for good behavior. It might mean she cooks a pancake breakfast, arranges a movie night or gets pizza delivered. It’s a chance for residents to have a good time for a few hours, that they have earned. The program is funded through profits of commissary sales and a benefit fund provided by phone service providers.

It is not just the residents who appreciate what Armstrong does at Oxford County Jail.

“Hiring Kaitlin was probably the best decision I made overall as we ramped up to full service,” Dillingham said. “This job is perfect for her.”


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