In a continuing shakeup at the troubled Maine State Prison, new state corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has fired six top officials including its controversial security chief, Deputy Warden James O’Farrell. Prisoners, prison critics, and former employees had long complained that O’Farrell handled both inmates and staff callously, reports The Phoenix in Portland. The mass dismissal came after a big security breach, the beating of inmate Lloyd Franklin Millet in the prison woodshop, allegedly at the hands of another inmate. Millet died on June 7 — the latest in a string of violent or suspicious inmate deaths in recent years.
Former guard Ira Scherr, former president of the correctional officers’ union and a longtime prison critic, feels “vindicated” by the firings. He believes the recent prisoner death was not why some of the dismissals occurred: “These guys were going to be going anyway.” Ponte had already shaken up the prison by reducing by more than half — to 60 inmates — the population of the notorious solitary-confinement “supermax” or Special Management Unit and requiring guards to stop throwing inmates — many of them mentally ill — into it for lengthy stays for minor rule violations.