Ahead of peak tourism season, Maine Gov. Paul LePage is helping ease the state’s labor shortage by releasing nonviolent offenders from prison to get them back to work, the Wall Street Journal reports. The sentences of 17 inmates who committed low-level offenses were commuted in recent days. LePage may make a similar move among the female prison population and is eyeing possible commutations in county jails. “We are looking at every corner of the state to try to put people back to work,” LePage told WVOM radio. “That’s what the commutation program is all about, and we’re being very, very cautious.”
Employers say they are struggling to staff up because of an aging population, fewer visas for temporary foreign workers and a three percent unemployment rate– the lowest in 40 years. LePage’s administration says it is releasing only offenders deemed at low risk to the public. The 17 chosen for commutations were selected from a review of 100 offenders, said corrections commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick. Eliminated from consideration are drug traffickers, sexual offenders, domestic abusers or others involved in violence. Repeat parole violators are also not likely to qualify. The commutations are conditional, with the offenders required to report to probation officers, pursue jobs or education, and abide by a range of rules, including a curfew when not working.