Commissioner discusses corrections system after recent attacks

8:01 PM, Mar 7, 2014   |    comments
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SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - In the wake of two high profile attacks, including the deadly stabbing of a prison inmate, the state's Commissioner of Corrections went on the offensive.

Appearing at a news conference today Joseph Ponte would not discuss specifics of the incidents because they are on going criminal investigations.

"I can't change what happened. I wish I could. Very tragic event, but what can we learn from this so we don't mistake the same mistake", he said.

Instead he touted safety improvements at the state's secure facilities. He says there are not widespread problems with security within the system, just the opposite. He says Maine's corrections facilities are safer now than they were 3-years ago.

"We do a very good job in Maine as far as managing of inmates. I believe our institutions are safer now than they were before". he said.

At the Long Creek Youth Development Center, three teenage inmates attacked a worker last month, kicking and punching him.

Last week at the Maine State Prison an inmate killed another inmate, tying him up in his cell and then stabbing him dozens of times. None of the prison staff was aware of the incident while it was happening. The commissioner was repeatedly asked shouldn't someone have heard or seen something?
"I don't think you would, but again we're doing that investigation. So part of that review will be to see if should the officer have seen or heard anything", he responded.
 
One guard in the section where the killing happened is responsible for overseeing 70-to-80 prisoners. The commissioner defended the staffing levels saying they are on par with other prisons across the country.

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