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Anti-gang bill dumped

State House Switcheroo
After a January 27 public hearing featuring a rare insinuation by one legislator that a fellow lawmaker lied, Criminal Justice Committee members were ready to throw out LD 1707, a bill that piles heavy sentences onto people convicted of involvement with criminal street gangs.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 01, 2012

Gang-buster bill gets dissed

Tattoos As A Criminal Act
A controversial legislative proposal developed by a secretive police group would send an individual to prison for up to 40 years if he or she is convicted of asking someone to join a criminal street gang.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 25, 2012


Chomsky to Occupy: move to the next stage

Words from the guru
Noam Chomsky has advice for the Occupy movement, whose encampments all over the country are being swept away by police.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 23, 2011

Privatized prison medical care is sick

But will cutting costs cure it? Joe Ponte's balancing act
For years complaints that the privatized medical care at the state's prisons was inadequate and abusive have poured into the mail and email boxes of prisoner advocates, the state's Corrections commissioner, and the press.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 14, 2011

‘Blaine House Nine’ banned from Capitol Park, State House

Augusta protests
Bet you didn't know that the police, without going to court or giving a reason, can order you not to enter public property like the State House — and if you disobey you could spend up to six months in jail.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 07, 2011


Augusta occupiers show a political way to spring

‘Occupy the Capitol!’
The recent act of nonviolent civil disobedience by nine middle-aged and older Occupy Augusta supporters — arrested for refusing to leave the governor's mansion grounds — opens a new phase in Maine's Occupy movement.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 30, 2011

Senator Collins helps derail prison reform

'Toxic' Washington
As a result of the apparent decision by congressional Republicans to oppose almost everything Democrats are for, Maine Senator Susan Collins — who claims to be above partisanship — helped derail Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb's bill to establish a bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission. Maine's Olympia Snowe and three other Republicans joined unanimous Senate Democrats to support it.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 09, 2011


Reducing solitary confinement

Exclusive Interview: How Maine’s corrections commissioner dropped supermax numbers by 70 percent . . . and became a national leader in prison reform (if anybody follows)
Installed by conservative Republican Governor Paul LePage last winter, Maine's new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte, 64, immediately set about reforming the prison system.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 02, 2011


'Bath salts' hysteria grips lawmakers

This is your Legislature on drugs
Like hopeless, strung-out junkies, one legislator after another babbled contradictions.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 05, 2011


Many Turnpike Authority enablers still in power

Five years on
Five years ago this week the Portland Phoenix published an exposé of the Maine Turnpike Authority executives' lavish lifestyle.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  August 03, 2011


Democrats celebrate victory in the face of defeat

They cozy up to Republicans and the rich
Senator Dawn Hill, of Cape Neddick, the lead Democrat on the Legislature's Appropriations Committee, which fashioned the recently passed $6-billion state budget, explained to the Phoenix why she voted to reduce income and estate taxes on the rich while also voting for cuts in help to the poor and in teacher and state-worker pensions.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  July 06, 2011

Mentally ill inmates need more help

Prison reform
Prisoner advocates would like the new Corrections commissioner to strengthen his reform of the Maine State Prison by giving more care to the many mentally ill prisoners he is releasing from often-lengthy solitary confinement into the prison's general population.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 22, 2011

Top prison officials fired

Shakeup continues
In a continuing shakeup at the troubled Maine State Prison, new Corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has fired six top officials including its controversial security chief, Deputy Warden James O'Farrell.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 15, 2011


Reform comes to the supermax

New commissioner cuts population by more than half; prisoner-rights advocates help in the reform
Less than three months into his job, Maine's new corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has begun to dramatically reform the Maine State Prison's long-troubled solitary-confinement "supermax" unit.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 25, 2011

Corporate prison bill 'carried over'

Inmate Exile Dept.
Although LD 690, A BILL TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR "EXILED" PRISONERS TO RETURN TO MAINE , was killed May 6 by the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, political activist Ron Huber, who had pushed it, declared "victory in Augusta" on his Facebook page.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 12, 2011


NAACP, others bristle after GOP Senator censors anti-private-prison testimony

Words ‘slavery,’ ‘racism’ banned
What is it with some Republicans and racial issues, anyway?
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 04, 2011


Lock-up lessons

The new corrections commissioner wants Maine prisons to learn from the state’s juvenile-treatment model
Fixing Maine’s troubled prisons is not an impossible task. In fact, if the state treated adult inmates more along the lines of how it treats juvenile offenders, prison critics — including, surprisingly, the new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte — think the prisons might not only become more humane, they might actually “correct” the prisoners.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 14, 2011

LePage kisses the Phoenix

Valentine's Day
We are savoring the moment. It won't last long.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 23, 2011


At a turning point

LePage's nominee to head Corrections has the skills to fix Maine's broken prison system. Will the governor and lawmakers give Joseph Ponte the tools?
When Joseph Ponte was told that Maine's longtime corrections commissioner Martin Magnusson had once informed the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, after a dramatic hostage-taking, that there were "probably 300 inmates right now with a weapon in their hand" — and that nobody at the committee meeting seemed disturbed by this information — Ponte's reaction was "I would be extremely perturbed by that."
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 09, 2011


New Corrections commissioner nominated

Prison administration
Joseph Ponte, 64, a veteran warden for the nation's largest private-prison operator, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has been nominated by Republican Governor Paul LePage to be the state's Corrections commissioner, replacing Martin Magnusson.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 27, 2011

'No-touch torture' in New Jersey

Maine Whistleblower Watch
Deane Brown, a Maine inmate shipped out of state because of his criticism of the Maine State Prison, is now being held in New Jersey in "one of the most repressive" prison units in the country, often reserved for "political" or activist prisoners like black radicals, says Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee's national Prison Watch.
By: LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 26, 2011

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