County officials around Maine will battle Gov. John Baldacci over his plan to take over the county jails, reports the Bangor Daily News. Peter Baldacci, the governor's older brother and a Penobscot County commissioner, will be leading the charge. “It's a step in the wrong direction,” Peter Baldacci said. “The state is overly centralized when it should be regionalized.” The governor's plan would consolidate 15 county jail systems and the state corrections system into a statewide system. It envisions closing four jails and setting up one or two special programs providing prisoners with mental health treatment. The plan would free up 300 beds throughout the state and ease overcrowding in the state system, the governor argues.
Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said combining state and county facilities was mixing apples and oranges. Felons sentenced to serve more than nine months are incarcerated at state facilities. People awaiting trial or sentenced to less than nine months on misdemeanor charges serve their time in county jails. “Our mission is different than the state's,” Ross said. “The inmates that come through our doors are nothing like the Department of Corrections has ever had to deal with.” He added: “Our mission is to try to prevent recidivism to get them out working, to get them on community work projects, and to provide what we can for them in the facility so they don't come back. [This plan] would be mixing those two different missions and a lot is going to be lost in this. It's going to mean higher recidivism rates I'm sure.”