February 21

Time to give county jails back to the counties


Several articles have been printed recently pertaining to a threat by Joseph Ponte, Department of Corrections commissioner, to “take over” county jails by state government.

I have been a county commissioner in Franklin County for more than 21 years. In my opinion, Ponte may not understand all he knows about the subject. How could he? He arrived late on the scene.

This fiasco was started late in the Baldacci administration. We were told that Maine was running out of beds to house its prisoners and that we might have to send them to faraway places such as Minnesota.

Some of us knew this wasn’t so. York County, Cumberland County and soon-to-be-built Somerset County all had extra beds. In my opinion, the state of Maine just didn’t want to pay the counties to board state prisoners in county jails.

There was no problem with county jails (at least in Franklin County) until Maine County Commissioners Association and the state of Maine came up with their “one Maine, one System” idea.

Ponte has it right when he says we have empty beds; we have about 40 here in Franklin County. We have had a jail here for more than 150 years. It’s time to put the genie back in the bottle and give the county jails back to the counties, where they belong.

Fred W. Hardy, commissionerFranklin County District 2New Sharon
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