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Maine State Prison

Latest Articles

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Death penalty sought for Maine prisoner

Escape-Artist Watch
Escape-Artist Watch
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 06, 2013
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Ponte’s prison reforms ramp up

Several weeks after firing Maine State Prison warden Patricia Barnhart and two years after taking over the Department of Corrections, Commissioner Joseph Ponte appears determined to continue — and ramp up — his forceful program of reform.
Two Years Later
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 08, 2013

Brown, ailing, to return soon

Prisoner Deane Brown should be back in Maine within two to three weeks, the Maine Department of Corrections notified his attorney on January 4.
Whistleblower Update  
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 11, 2013

Prison whistleblower to return to Maine

Maine corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has notified Deane Brown, the inmate whistleblower who in 2005 was the original source for the Phoenix 's lengthy series on prison abuse, that he will be allowed to return to Maine.
Homecomings
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 28, 2012
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Tapley racks up another award

Portland Phoenix contributing writer Lance Tapley, who has covered conditions in the Maine State Prison and throughout the state's corrections system since 2005, will be honored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine for "outstanding advocacy
Laurels
By JEFF INGLIS  |  October 12, 2012

Mentally ill inmates need more help

Prisoner advocates would like the new Corrections commissioner to strengthen his reform of the Maine State Prison by giving more care to the many mentally ill prisoners he is releasing from often-lengthy solitary confinement into the prison's general po
Prison reform
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 24, 2011


Top prison officials fired

In a continuing shakeup at the troubled Maine State Prison, new Corrections commissioner Joseph Ponte has fired six top officials including its controversial security chief, Deputy Warden James O'Farrell.
Shakeup continues
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  June 17, 2011
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Lock-up lessons

Fixing Maine’s troubled prisons is not an impossible task. In fact, if the state treated adult inmates more along the lines of how it treats juvenile offenders, prison critics — including, surprisingly, the new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte — t
The new corrections commissioner wants Maine prisons to learn from the state’s juvenile-treatment model
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 08, 2011

Prison torture coverage, expanded

Longtime Portland Phoenix contributing writer Lance Tapley's investigation of the Maine State Prison and the state's corrections system as a whole have reached a yet wider audience with the publication of an essay by Tapley in The United States and To
Also of note
By JEFF INGLIS  |  March 11, 2011

Phoenix wins NENPA honors

At the New England Newspaper and Press Association awards banquet earlier this month, Portland Phoenix writers earned several awards in the weekly newspaper category.
Laurels
By EDITORIAL  |  February 25, 2011
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At a turning point

When Joseph Ponte was told that Maine's longtime corrections commissioner Martin Magnusson had once informed the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee, after a dramatic hostage-taking, that there were "probably 300 inmates right now with a weapon in
LePage's nominee to head Corrections has the skills to fix Maine's broken prison system. Will the governor and lawmakers give Joseph Ponte the tools?
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 11, 2011


'No-touch torture' in New Jersey

Deane Brown, a Maine inmate shipped out of state because of his criticism of the Maine State Prison, is now being held in New Jersey in "one of the most repressive" prison units in the country, often reserved for "political" or activist prisoners like
Maine Whistleblower Watch
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 28, 2011

LePage interested in corporate prisons

In the gubernatorial campaign the controversial Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit prison operator, spent $25,000 on behalf of Republican candidate Paul LePage, now the governor-elect.
The $25,000 contribution question
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 17, 2010

TB worry at Maine State Prison

"Several individuals" at the Maine State Prison in Warren have tested positive for tuberculosis, but "there are no confirmed active cases," says Denise Lord, deputy Maine Corrections commissioner.
'No active cases'
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 12, 2010

Penal future

The few things that Republican Governor-elect Paul LePage was reported as saying on crime-and-punishment issues during the campaign mostly sounded harsh and, of course, right-wing.
Will LePage's zeal to cut the budget make prisoners and guards bleed?
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 12, 2010

AG exonerates guards

Critics of the state's prison system will press for an independent investigation after expressing dismay with the attorney general's long-delayed conclusion October 28 that Maine State Prison inmate Victor Valdez died last November from "a natural death.
Valdez prison death
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 05, 2010


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How progressive are Maine's gubernatorial candidates?

Political rhetoric is cheap. Does a candidate have specific, practical proposals that are fresh approaches to stubborn problems? Or are their ideas irresponsible?
The gubernatorial candidates' specific ideas to make Maine better (or worse)
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 22, 2010
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A prison obituary: the tragedy of Victor Valdez

Joking among themselves, a small group of guards entered Close E pod. "Lock up!" one of them suddenly commanded the prisoners: go to your cells.
A homicide? The state police are investigating. A cover-up? Who will investigate?
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  July 30, 2010

Death penalty possible for Watland

Gary Watland, the brilliant and mentally ill convicted murderer whose 2006 scheme to have his wife smuggle a loaded handgun into the Maine State Prison in Warren was foiled when another prisoner tipped off officials, faces a possible death penalty if co
Prison Murder
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  May 28, 2010

How can those in the box think outside of the box?

I was disgusted on multiple levels with what the article revealed about the Maine State Prison.
Letters to the Portland editor, May 14, 2010
By PORTLAND PHOENIX LETTERS  |  May 14, 2010

Radical night out in Portland

“People are upset about Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib,” Noam Chomsky told 750 people packed into the Woodfords Congregational Church last Saturday night, “but if you’re concerned about human rights, take a walk into a maximum-security prison.”
 Activism Optimism
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 30, 2010


A ‘moral victory’ against supermax torture

At times the legislative debate on LD 1611, the bill to limit solitary confinement of the state’s prisoners, became surreal.
Analysis
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 16, 2010
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Maine tortures women, too

The Maine Department of Corrections is an equal-opportunity torturer.
But Riverview presents an alternative
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  March 12, 2010

The cost of torture

In the end, whether mass solitary confinement continues at the Maine State Prison supermax may come down to an issue of money rather than right or wrong. And resolving that issue may come down to whether the state wants to pay more now to pay less in the
Solitary Confinement Bill Hearing
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 26, 2010

Seeking humane treatment

Some Maine people are taking moral responsibility for the way supermax inmates are treated.
State and national efforts well under way
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 19, 2010
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Screams from solitary

The 132-man supermax unit within the 925-man Maine State Prison is an expensive, taxpayer-funded torture chamber that for 18 years has sucked in mostly nonviolent, mostly mentally ill prisoners and ground them up by means of mind-destroying solitary conf
‘By dehumanizing prisoners, we dehumanize ourselves.’
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  February 19, 2010


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Corrections disobeys another federal court order

For decades, as it has with other court orders, the Maine Department of Corrections has apparently been breaching a 1973 federal court’s decree that forbids disciplinary solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison beyond 10 days for minor offenses, or
Solitary Confinement
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 18, 2009

A mysterious new inmate death

Despite a scandal earlier this year over a prisoner death, state corrections officials won’t allow the Phoenix to interview a Maine State Prison inmate who has claimed in letters that prison staff abused an ailing prisoner, Victor Valdez, before Valdez
Prison Scandal Watch
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 11, 2009

Suspect speaks; victim’s family begins $1-million-plus lawsuit

The widow of Sheldon Weinstein, the Maine State Prison inmate who died in April several days after allegedly being beaten by inmates, has taken the first step toward filing a wrongful-death lawsuit against prison guards, Department of Corrections “policy
 Prison Homicide
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 06, 2009

Limiting Supermax solitary

Representative James Schatz, a Blue Hill Democrat, has proposed legislation to tightly limit when prisoners can be kept in the solitary confinement of the 100-man Supermax unit of the Maine State Prison in Warren.
 Legislation Drafted
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 09, 2009