Following requests, the candidates expressed their views on the state's penal problems, with the exception of Paul LePage:
ELIOT CUTLER, by e-mail: "I believe solitary confinement should be used as a last resort, if at all. Maine should pursue a better, outcomes-oriented approach to incarceration in general. We ought to be able to reduce recidivism through an improved program of effective and compassionate mental health care, housing, mentoring, job training, and job placement that will better reintegrate ex-offenders into society."
ELIZABETH MITCHELL, by e-mail: "Because so many people with mental illness do not receive the care they need, they end up incarcerated as a result of crimes they commit. The only way to get at this problem is with an upstream approach. We need to make services for people with mental illness more accessible so they stay out of the corrections system. Until we address this issue we will continue to spend more on corrections than we can afford."
SHAWN MOODY, in an interview: "We have to get at the root causes of crime. In a poor economy the lack of job opportunity is directly connected to the crime rate." As for solitary confinement, "We have to make sure that prisoners have the mental-health support they need."
KEVIN SCOTT, in an interview: He believes nonviolent drug offenders should not be locked up, and sentencing laws should be reformed. Generally, the state "should move away from incarceration" for nonviolent prisoners and toward alternatives such as house arrest. He calls solitary confinement "counterproductive." The state should "definitely put an end" to isolation of people with mental illness.
It's possible that if one of these candidates is elected, there may be changes in Maine's correctional system.
As for PAUL LEPAGE, he told the Lewiston Sun Journal that the state shouldn't provide 100 percent of prisoners' health care and that he favors reinstituting the death penalty. But he also said "I will try to empty our jails of those who don't need to be there," referring to mentally ill people.
Lance Tapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.