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. Although CCA financially helped LePage get elected, and the governor has expressed interest in helping the town of Milo convince CCA to build a prison for out-of-state prisoners, at a January 24 press conference LePage said he chose Ponte simply for his management experience. LePage added that he has "no interest in privatizing the current state system."
But state Senate Democrats immediately expressed "serious concern" over Ponte's nomination because of his "orientation" toward private prisons, according to their spokeswoman, Ericka Wainberg. Two-thirds of senators must confirm a nominee. Republicans control the Senate 20 to 14 Democrats and one independent.
Ponte has worked for CCA in Florida, Arizona, Mississippi, and most recently in Nevada. He also has worked at public prisons and jails in Tennessee, Idaho, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and for over 20 years in Massachusetts, including tenure as warden at the notoriously violent Walpole prison — where, he says, he accomplished a "dramatic turnaround."
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