Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who once joked about using the guillotine to execute drug dealers, plans to release an unknown number of “lower-risk” prisoners from the state’s correctional facilities, reports the Associated Press. State prisoner advocates applauded the idea, while some fellow Republicans questioned it. Maine is seeing a drug crisis that law enforcement officials say is fueling crime and a rise in drug overdose deaths. LePage’s proposal is in sharp contrast to his history of tough talk on crime. Some Republicans worry about the impact releasing some prisoners would have on local communities.
“If he lets them go into our communities down here, we’ll have to fight back however we can do it,” said Republican Jeffrey Davis, a selectman in Machiasport, which relies on a local minimum-security prison for jobs and services. Davis and union leaders are exploring legal action in light of LePage’s recently announced plans to shut down the facility in that community and release or transfer inmates. Joseph Jackson of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition wants to reduce Maine’s prisoner population. But, he said the Machiasport prison is one of the state’s few facilities that help transition prisoners back into society. He said released inmates will need help with everything from housing to medical care to getting IDs. It’s unknown when or how many inmates will be released, or from which prisons. The administration also has not disclosed how it will determine if someone is a “lower-risk” offender.