Latest Articles


Whistleblower returns; Maine a prison-reform model

On Valentine's Day, prisoner Deane Brown, who sounded an alarm that drew international attention to the savagery of solitary confinement and other abuses in the Maine State Prison's "supermax" unit, was returned to the Warren prison after an exile of mo
Prodigal Sons  
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  March 22, 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.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 28, 2012

Finding balance

Balancing the state budget is easy. If by "easy," you mean "ridiculously difficult."
Politics + Other Mistakes  
By AL DIAMON  |  December 07, 2012

Honored for torture exposé, Tapley points out more work to be done

At an October 26 event attended by five previous awardees and nearly 30 others, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine presented Portland Phoenix writer Lance Tapley with its 2012 Roger Baldwin Award, recognizing his nearly 100 stories over seven
By JEFF INGLIS  |  November 09, 2012

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
By JEFF INGLIS  |  October 12, 2012

Whistle-blower asks to come home

In 2011 reform-minded Commissioner Joseph Ponte of the Maine Department of Corrections set up a formal process — apparently, rare in the United States — for prisoners transferred to out-of-state prison systems to apply to come home.
Exiles’ Return
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  September 28, 2012


Solitary confinement: bad for chimps, okay for humans?

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins is a key cosponsor of legislation that, among other provisions, would outlaw psychologically damaging solitary confinement for more than 500 chimpanzees caged for research in federally supported laboratories.
Primate Rights  
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  August 24, 2012

Maine a model for solitary-confinement reform

In the first-ever congressional hearing June 19 on the widespread use of solitary confinement in America's prisons, Senator Richard Durbin spoke favorably of the Maine prison system's substantial reduction of inmate isolation as he pressed the federal p
Setting Examples
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  July 06, 2012

Privatized prison medical care is sick

For years complaints that the privatized medical care at the state's prisons was inadequate and abusive have poured into the mail and email boxes of prisoner advocates, the state's Corrections commissioner, and the press.
But will cutting costs cure it? Joe Ponte's balancing act
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  December 16, 2011

Maine's GOP AG and gov again imprison a social problem rather than solving it

Last month, I wrote about the demonization and criminalization of the needy, noting that rather than actually fix social problems, conservative politicians make them worse...
By Jeff Inglis  |  December 12, 2011

Senator Collins helps derail prison reform

As a result of the apparent decision by congressional Republicans to oppose almost everything Democrats are for, Maine Senator Susan Collins — who claims to be above partisanship — helped derail Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb's bill to establish a
'Toxic' Washington
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 11, 2011


Reducing solitary confinement

Installed by conservative Republican Governor Paul LePage last winter, Maine's new corrections commissioner, Joseph Ponte, 64, immediately set about reforming the prison system.
Exclusive Interview: How Maine’s corrections commissioner dropped supermax numbers by 70 percent . . . and became a national leader in prison reform (if anybody follows)
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 29, 2011

The secret's out

Need free health care? Why not just go to prison?
By MATT BORS  |  July 15, 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

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 administration

Joseph Ponte, 64, a veteran warden for the nation's largest private-prison operator, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has been nominated by Republican Governor Paul LePage to be the state's Corrections commissioner, replacing Martin Magnusso
Prison administration
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  January 28, 2011

Supermax coverage continues

Portland Phoenix contributing writer Lance Tapley has an article in the latest issue of the Boston Review. It's called "The Worst of the Worst: Supermax...
By Jeff Inglis  |  December 17, 2010

Walking on broken glass

There must be some kind of law that kicks in whenever a prominent politician leaves office, requiring every columnist and pundit to blather on at length about the triumphs and tragedies of that esteemed figure's checkered career.
A (very) short list of Baldacci's successes
By AL DIAMON  |  December 17, 2010

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

Prisoner-rights advocates honored by MCLU

Three Mainers, all activists for prisoner-rights, will be honored by the Maine Civil Liberties Union on Friday, with the MCLU's Roger Baldwin Award, named for...
By Jeff Inglis  |  October 13, 2010

The reform-proof prison

From the beginning of her tenure as commissioner, Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner Kathleen Dennehy clashed with union loyalists intent on maintaining the status quo.
Why Massachusetts' correctional system hasn't gotten any better
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 10, 2010


Size matters

If the United States does not suffer a death wish, then it must be saddled with a streak of masochism as wide as the Mississippi River.
Big banks escape effective regulation; plus DOMA and "prison reform"
By EDITORIAL  |  July 16, 2010

The 13th Annual Muzzle Awards

A year and a half into the Age of Obama, we are learning a lesson we should have figured out long ago — that repression, once in place, is rarely rolled back all the way, and that liberals no less than conservatives are reluctant to give up power.
A look at the dishonorable enemies of free speech and personal liberty in New England
By DAN KENNEDY  |  July 02, 2010

Pressing Obama for an answer

Convicted murderer Darrell Jones has accomplished more in the worlds of media, entertainment, and activism from behind bars over the past 25 years than most free people do in a lifetime.
Inside Job Dept.
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  May 28, 2010

The battle against supermaxes expands

Lance Tapley, very familiar to Portland Phoenix readers, has a new national-scope piece on the national anti-supermax movement published at The Crime Report. Give it...
By Jeff Inglis  |  May 18, 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

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

Are doctors complicit in prison torture?

In the past few years an outcry has arisen over the involvement of military and CIA medical professionals and psychologists in torture. Some critics have even suggested criminal prosecution of the medical staff involved or, at least, revocation of their
The Maine medical community looks at solitary confinement
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 23, 2010

Tonight: Explore solitary confinement with National Geographic

As Portland Phoenix readers well know, we've been covering living conditions in the Maine State Prison's solitary-confinement supermax unit for more than four years now.But...
By Jeff Inglis  |  April 20, 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.
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  April 16, 2010