Governor proposes releasing inmates to help labor shortage

There's a major labor shortage and Governor LePage is talking about possibly commuting the sentences of some of Maine's inmates to fill these jobs.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Governor LePage proposed on a radio show Tuesday to commute the sentences of some of Maine's low-risk inmates and to put them into the tourism workforce.

"Have you not driven down the street and not seen 'help wanted, help wanted, help wanted?' said LePage on Tuesday. "We're trying to fill the jobs that we have available. We've got to try everything we can to get people to work. We have jobs and we just don't have enough people."

LePage and the Department of Corrections are still in the process of figuring out which inmates would be released early.

The Governor's press secretary said the evaluations of additional inmates are "in process" -- a process which involves the Governor, the D.O.C. Commissioner, and some lawyers doing a final review of the names to decide who qualifies for release.

Mikhele Kuntz, the co-owner of the Old Orchard Beach House of Pizza, said the restaurant will be closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays due to the "lack of skilled workers." She said she would support the Governor's plan.
 
"If they could do what I need them to, sure," said Kuntz. 
 
Kuntz said one of her staff members has spent time in jail, working 14 months in the kitchen.
 
"He's my grill cook and he's amazing. I don't hold people's past against them. If they can do what I need to do, there's no reason they shouldn't be working," said Kuntz. 
 
Other business owners said they need to learn more about the Governor's plan.
 
Hid'n Pines Campground owner Jason Ahearn said he is trying to fill a few positions, and has had difficulty, but that he feels there are a lot of unanswered questions.
 
"I would be able to take each individual on his or her own and decide at that point whether or not they'd be a good fit -- felon or non-felon aside."
 
Some business owners said no outright, adding that those who currently collect welfare should go to work instead.
 
Maine's ACLU released a statement on the idea:
 
"The governor's decision to commute these sentences is a positive step toward ending Maine's over-reliance on incarceration. In Maine, like the rest of the nation, we lock up too many people for too long, at too great a human and fiscal cost."
 
A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office said the Governor's power to commute or pardon prisoners is absolute. He said there is nothing in the constitution requiring the Governor to notify victims, prosecutors or law enforcement if he chooses to commute a sentence. 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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