On November 11, 2005, Lance Tapley began what has become a nearly four-year series investigating inmate treatment — including torture — in the Maine prison system, focusing on the Supermax unit at the Maine State Prison. Home to more mentally ill inmates than those who have committed serious crimes, Maine's Supermax is where inmates are sent if Corrections refuses or fails to treat their psychoses. The solitary confinement involved, though, only aggravates their conditions — 23 hours of forced solitude every day would make the sanest person lose it. After several years of our reporting — and with no other media in the state looking deeper — a group of activists has developed, and legislative investigations have begun.
Last month, Maine State Prison Warden Jeffrey Merrill was fired from his job (though he was allowed to stay with the department, after taking a 42-percent pay cut), and Commissioner Martin Magnusson, who in November 2005 promised speedy reform, has only just now begun what may yet be a serious shakeup of prison conditions.
But hunger strikes continue, and inmates and their families continue to protest harsh treatment, particularly of mentally ill prisoners.
"Portland is blessed with a community of great bands that belie the size of our city, but none can command the attention — whip up the local multigenerational, mixed-gender, popular frenzy — quite like the Rustic Overtones. Blending funk, jazz, trip-hop, soul, ska, and good ol' American rock-n-roll into a unique, intensely vibrant sound, Rustic's live show is the real deal."
So wrote Pete Hodgin in the May 19, 2000, Best Music Poll issue, when RO won Best Local Band, Best Local Song, and Best Local Male Vocalist (Dave Gutter).
And here's what we said when Rustic won the Best Live Act category in this year's BMP (they also pulled big wins in 2008): "Maine's favorite sons pulled an unsurprising win in this category. The seven-piece, horn-heavy, rock-funk-jazz act put on a rollicking good show; their reunion concerts in 2007 drew thousands of enthusiastic fans, thrilled to see their favorite band back after a five-year hiatus."
Clearly, these guys know the formula for long-lasting success.
The Press Herald
We've followed the fits and foibles of Portland's daily newspaper with some collegiality, but no small dose of schadenfreude, we'll admit. We got our first crack when, on November 17, 2000, Sam Smith went inside the Press Herald's blown scoop on George W. Bush's 1976 DUI charge in Kennebunkport — which became not only an issue in the presidential campaign but also of editorial leadership and credibility for Maine's largest daily.
By August 2006, Jeff Inglis was predicting that the paper would have a new owner within two years, based on labor and business deals the Blethen family had made. Frank Blethen himself refused to comment and his local honcho Chuck Cochrane issued strongly worded denials, saying the Blethens were committed to Maine and the paper. But sure enough, in the middle of 2008, the Press Herald was for sale.
Inglis wasn't entirely right, though — the new owner didn't actually finalize the deal until 2009. He has a long way to go to right the ship, though, and we've offered him some suggestions. Maybe he'll take one.
Shooting with Carolyn Chute