We are savoring the moment. It won't last long.
On Valentine's Day a right-wing Republican governor, Paul LePage, sent his legal counsel, Dan Billings, to convince the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee that Joseph Ponte should become corrections commissioner in part because an article in the Portland Phoenix "looks at Mr. Ponte's professional background and concludes that he has the skills necessary to run Maine's corrections system," as Billings told the committee members. (For the article, see "At a Turning Point," by Lance Tapley, February 9).
We wrote that Ponte received high marks from prison reformers as well as from officials with whom he had worked. Ponte straightened out two of America's most violent lockups, Walpole in Massachusetts and Shelby County in Tennessee.
Billings said LePage chose Ponte because he wanted someone with an outsider's perspective "to address a number of issues in the department, including some that have been areas of concern for a long time."
Democrats had made noises about opposing Ponte because he had worked for the past few years for the Corrections Corporation of America, and they feared that LePage had brought him to Maine to privatize the prisons. But LePage and Ponte denied this intent.
Senate Democrats on February 15 joined Republicans to unanimously confirm him.
: This Just In
, Politics, Criminal Justice Committee, Dan Billings, More