AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --The Maine Department of Corrections took a lot of heat on Monday about proposed rules that would put more restrictions on the ability of prison inmates to communicate with people outside the prison walls. The Department says it regularly reviews rules, and this time it is updating the rules for prisoner discipline.
The proposals include tighter restrictions on writing to non-family members, whom the Department calls "pen pals", and more restrictions on communicating with the news media. There are a wide variety of proposals, including new disciplinary requirements and procedures. At a public hearing in Augusta, former inmates, parents of inmates, former prison workers, and volunteers all testified about the need for inmates to be able to write and make connections with people outside and said that communication would be hurt by the new rules. Several opponents said writing helps prisoners build connections to people, and helps with rehabilitation. They said cutting back the chances for inmates to make those connections will hurt their chances to live successful lives when they get out.
Other speakers asked why the Department of Corrections had not consulted with families or groups like the NAACP and NAMI Maine as it developed those new rules. They also questioned why the new rules were being proposed before the new State Prison warden, Randall Liberty, could be involved in the process. The American Civil Liberties Union said some of the proposals violated the Constitution.
No one from the Department of Corrections defended the proposals at the hearing, and the top Corrections administrators did not attend. The staff member presiding over the public hearing said the department would continue to take public comments until Nov. 6, after which it will review those concerns as it finalizes new rules.