By Joshua Archer
CARIBOU — The topic of jail reform came up at last Wednesday’s County Commissioner’s meeting at the Caribou Courthouse. State lawmakers are considering the abolishment of the Board of Corrections. If the board is dissolved, control of county jails would go back to the counties.
“[The Board of Corrections] has not worked all that well,” Aroostook County Administrator Doug Beaulieu said. Aroostook County was among the three counties that did not support the Board of Corrections when it was established in 2008 by Governor Baldacci, added.
“[Aroostook County] has not been properly funded since the Board of Corrections was created,” Beaulieu said. County commissioners, he explained, have had to justify jail spending to the board which has caused the commissioners many headaches.
“Our actual budget is always higher than the approved budget,” he said. County commissioners are left to worry until the end of the budget year to find out if the board will provide them needed fiscal assistance, he added.
The Board of Corrections was implemented as a way to solve a lack of bed space in state prisons, but Beaulieu said. “This just really isn’t a good fix. It was flawed from the start.”
If control of county jails is reversed, operational logistics will go back into the hands of the county sheriff’s offices and financial control will go back to the county commissioners. The result would make for more local control and bring jail decisions closer to home. It would also mean a tax increase to municipalities unless counties receive state subsidies to offset the cost, Beaulieu warned.
Beaulieu said some legislators want to give more power to the Board of Corrections or even create a complete state takeover, leaving jails as state entities. The abolishment of the board is in the air and lawmakers may not have a decision until June.