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Good day.

It’s been about six months since we began an intense debate about the best way to manage the State’s prisons and jails.

At times, the discussion looked like an argument.

But I’m happy to say that after months of hard work and effort, my administration, county officials, sheriffs - have all agreed that a plan that will save taxpayers money and lead to better results can be done.

Last weekend, long negotiations resulted in that compromise plan that combines the best elements of two competing proposals to reform prisons and jails.

While there’s much work to be done and a number of details to be resolved, Maine is on the way toward much-needed reform.

Now, county commissioners, sheriffs and my administration can work in unison with the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to finalize a plan that will modernize the way we run corrections in Maine.

Most Mainers probably haven’t paid close attention to the debate that has surrounded prisons and jails for the last several months.

Prisons and jails are rarely considered in our daily lives. And when we do think about them, the thoughts are often confined to money – how much jails cost and how much they add to property taxes.

Under the compromise brokered between the counties and the State, we will reduce the burden on property taxes, we will create a more efficient system and provide better mental health and rehabilitative services to prisoners.

We will create a State Board of Corrections that will determine the best use and mission of our prisons and jail facilities and help to hold down overall costs of implementing bulk purchasing.

We have better control over bed space, alleviating unnecessary overcrowding and doing a better job managing where prisoners are housed.

Right now, between the counties and the state, we have more space than we need, but the current system doesn’t allow us to effectively utilize it.

The State Board of Corrections will also determine future needs for the system and approve all of the construction projects. This alone will save the state millions of dollars in unneeded construction costs.

And ultimately, some jails are likely to close, but like new construction, those decisions will be made by the State Board of Corrections, which will include representatives from the ranks of sheriffs, county commissioners, along with representatives of the administration and the State at-large.

So while there will be greater coordination between the State and counties, the day-to-day operations of the jails will be left in the capable hands of local sheriffs.

Jail officers will remain county employees, and will receive support from the State as they work toward national accreditation.

The plan will lead to uniform policies from jail to jail and facility to facility.

And most importantly, the new compromise plan will stop the growth in property taxes to pay for jails and will lead to better outcomes for prisoners, which will make our communities safer.

The compromise plan which has been developed took the determined and good-faith efforts of many people, including county commissioners, sheriffs, the Department of Corrections and countless others.

Going forward will require the same kind of commitment from the men in women on the Criminal Justice and Safety Committee and the lawmakers in the Legislature.

I’ve talked with many of them, and I know that we are all working toward the same goal: A better, more efficient corrections system that saves taxpayers money, protects public safety and improves our efforts toward rehabilitating the people in our care.

I think we all realize the way we’re doing things today can’t continue. It’s not sustainable.

The good news is that we’re largely agreeing on how best to move forward and to make those improvements.

So we are taking an important step for the State of Maine that will pay dividends in dollars and in improved lives for years to come.

Thank you and have a great weekend.

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