The Maine Department of Corrections has largely finished a five-year renovation of the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, a $142 million project that went on while inmates were incarcerated at the facility. 

“This has been years in the making,” Gov. Janet Mills said Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the Windham prison’s new entrance. “Under Commissioner (Randall) Liberty’s leadership, the Maine Department of Corrections is setting a nationwide example of how to create an environment where people can restore their lives.”

The project included upgrading existing buildings and replacing old structures at the 104-year-old prison. The result, Mills said, is a facility with modern security features, as well as job training and education activities aimed at helping prisoners transition back into society.

Construction was delayed by more than a year and came in roughly $7 million under budget, but state leaders aren’t saying what they took out of the original project plans to reach that number.

Beyond the fence is the new inmate housing, a newly improved space compared to the brick buildings that used to house inmates at the Maine Correctional Center. Cullen McIntyre/Staff Photographer


DOC leaders have for years discussed the need for upgrading Windham’s aging medium-security prison, Liberty said. He described the facility’s constant heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical problems as “Shawshank-like” and said they were counterintuitive to the department’s mission to rehabilitate.


“If you’re in a place where it’s 100 degrees in the summer and 25 degrees in the winter, it’s very difficult,” he said. “You’re kind of in survival mode.”

But since renovation planning began in earnest nearly a decade ago, a parade of challenges has reshaped and delayed plans for the prison’s future.


In 2013, former Gov. Paul LePage pushed for a major expansion of the facility that would have nearly doubled the prison’s maximum capacity to 1,200 beds. The move, his administration argued, would have allowed the state to consolidate other prisons to the tune of $10 million in savings per year.

The Legislature approved a slightly scaled-back $149 million version of the plan in 2016 and construction began two years later. By the time Mills took office in 2019, the project was already “tens of millions” over budget, she said, and DOC began to look at areas to cut. 

The dozens of suppliers and subcontractors who contributed to the project failed to complete the upgrades before the original plan’s scheduled completion date in June 2022. But Mills praised the team for coming in under budget at $142 million.


At 720 beds, the new Maine Correctional Center is far smaller than originally planned and only slightly larger than the facility was before the upgrades. Yet with the state’s prison population down more than 30% since 2018, according to the DOC’s most recent end-of-year report, the facility still has about 300 empty beds, Liberty said.

Liberty declined to share what aspects of the initial plan were cut to get the program under budget, except to say they were LePage additions that were not essential elements of the project.

“I don’t think we’re missing anything,” he said. “We’re not wanting at this point.”


While the previous administration emphasized shaving corrections costs by consolidating prisons, Liberty said the DOC’s current philosophy is that investing in prisoner education and rehabilitation will save Maine taxpayers money in the long run by reducing recidivism.

Besides improved housing, the new Maine Correctional Center has a greenhouse and multiple acres of gardens, along with a soon-to-be-built food processing center that will be used to process produce grown at DOC facilities all over the state. Deputy Commissioner Tony Cantillo estimated that the center will produce 200,000 pounds of food each year, which will be used to feed inmates, and stock local food pantries and soup kitchens.


“It’ll be a new gold standard,” he said.

The facility’s “garden therapy” also helps the DOC rehabilitate inmates by offering them new skills and opportunities to produce work they can be proud of, Liberty said.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a ribbon-cutting event for the recently renovated Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

New buildings include improved spaces for education and activities, as well a more comfortable visitor center – quality-of-life enhancements that Liberty says align with the DOC’s “Maine Model of Corrections,” which aims to foster positive, non-adversarial relationships between prisoners and corrections officers.

Policies like medication-assisted treatment, which aims to help prisoners with substance use problems, have in recent years improved life both within and outside DOC facilities, Liberty said. He cited the shrinking number of assaults on staff members – just seven in Maine in 2022, down from 87 in 2017 – and declining recidivism rates, especially among prisoners who participate in medication-assisted treatment.

He said he hopes the Maine Correctional System’s upgrades, including a new unit that will support women with long-term health problems, will continue to improve outcomes for prisoners and the public.

“What this did,” he said of the construction, “is it allowed a safer environment where people can be redeemed.”

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