An acting warden has been appointed at the Maine State Prison in Warren while the state continues an investigation into alleged misconduct at its largest prison.

Deputy Director of Operations James Hancox will serve as the interim warden until further notice, effectively replacing Matthew Magnusson in that role, said Randall Liberty, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. Liberty said he is unable to comment further on Magnusson’s status, citing personnel issues. The change in leadership took effect Tuesday.

The prison, which houses male inmates, remains fully operational while the investigation is ongoing, Liberty said in a telephone interview Wednesday night.

The Department of Corrections is partnering on the investigation with the Maine Bureau of Human Resources, an independent state agency. The bureau’s webpage says it is responsible for recruitment, classification and wages for state employees, and counsels managers in labor relations issues.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Maine Attorney General said in an email Wednesday night that it cannot comment on or confirm the existence of an investigation.

The Department of Corrections said it became aware in August 2023 of allegations of misconduct by and among employees at the Maine State Prison, Liberty said in a written statement issued Wednesday.


“The misconduct involved allegations of harassment, hazing and retaliation among employees, and allegations of misconduct related to inappropriate relations between employees and residents,” Liberty said in the statement. “After receiving this information, the department took immediate action, partnering with the Bureau of Human Resources to launch a comprehensive investigation into the allegations. That investigation remains ongoing.”

The statement says that Liberty is taking and will continue to take appropriate actions in response to and as justified by the results of the investigation. He did not elaborate on the nature of those actions.

“We feel it’s important to recognize the exceptional work and commitment to professionalism exhibited by the vast majority of employees within the department,” Liberty said. “The actions taken in response to the allegations are in support of those employees and the residents in their care.”

Liberty said his department will not tolerate misconduct, and takes any allegations of misconduct seriously. Because the investigation is ongoing and because confidential personnel matters are involved, he said the department is prohibited from offering additional details at this time.

“Department employees are expected to conduct themselves by the highest standards of behavior, consistent with the Maine Model of Corrections, and the department’s core values of accountability, respect, integrity, teamwork and commitment,” Liberty said.

The Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition told News Center Maine that the scope of the investigation seems to be widespread.


“There were some rumors flying around about who was gone and who was coming in and all that,” Joseph Jackson, the coalition’s executive director, told News Center Maine. “It just shows that everything is not all peaches and cream.”

Jackson was surprised that Magnusson was not in charge of the prison as of this week, saying Magnusson was always willing to work with the coalition when complaints arose.

“I felt that he was responsive when we raised issues with him,” Jackson said.

Liberty, the former Kennebec County sheriff, was named warden of the Maine State Prison in 2015. Magnusson replaced Liberty in 2019 after Gov. Janet Mills appointed Liberty as commissioner.


The investigation into misconduct at the state prison, which houses some of the state’s most violent offenders, represents another setback for the department.

Gerald E. Merrill, a deputy superintendent at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston, was arrested in July 2023 and charged with theft and bribery. Merrill is accused of using state money to buy products from certain vendors in exchange for more than $10,000 in kickbacks over the course of nearly a decade, according to a criminal complaint.

Asked about the status of Merrill’s case during the phone interview, Liberty replied, “Nothing has changed. The case has not gone to trial.”

The Maine State Prison opened in Thomaston in 1824. The prison moved to the Knox County town of Warren in 2002. According to Department of Corrections website, the medium and maximum security prison has the capacity to house up to 993 adult males.

The prison operates an intensive mental health unit, offers basic and higher-education programs to inmates, vocational training, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, sexual behavior treatment, parenting and domestic violence education.


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