Throwback Thursday - Jail Expansion ‘86

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 12:33 PM EDT
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As times change and our society advances, so too must our institutions, including those designed to maintain law and order. One such example was the transformation and expansion of the Aroostook County Jail back in the mid-eighties and it’s the focus of this week’s Throwback Thursday with Brian Bouchard.

In the world of correctional facilities, maintaining standards along with state policy isn’t just a matter of running a tight ship, it’s about ensuring the safety, security, and humane treatment of those incarcerated. In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we dial the time machine back to 1986, where WAGM reporter Sara Coddington gives us a look at the transformation of the jail, and raises questions about the future of county corrections that still resonate today.

Bright yellow paint can’t hide the poor condition of these jail cells. It’s been long overdue, but finally the Aroostook County Jail is breaking ground and moving into the 20th century.

“The major thing that will happen here is that we’ll have our jail up to Maine jail standards, which now, it’s not. The cell size is too small, we don’t have dayroom space for the inmates, we don’t have indoor exercise for them.”

And the cells will no longer have steel bars.

“They’ll be windows, unbreakable windows, it’s not going to look like the old traditional jails, it’s going to be the new generation of jail.”

This jail can now hold up to 53 prisoners at a time, after the new wing is complete in 1988, that number will increase to 66. With governor Brennans new prison reform package sending minor offenders to county jails, officials are concerned about how this facility will withstand the increase in prisoners in the future.

“It is going to have an impact on our county jail, right now during the winter months we’re usually at capacity, this time of the year, we’re down however and we can handle whatever inmates would be shuffled back to the county jail. In the future, I don’t know what to expect. I’m kind of looking for overcrowding.”

“It’s going to cost the counties more money, I think it’s a shame that the bill was passed. The counties are going to be stuck with taking care of more state prisoners at more cost to us. This facility will be expandable, we’ll be able to expand further, we can go up another floor.”

The facelift and expansion are welcome new additions, but some still wonder, will it be enough new room for the expected new inmates. It’s something the county will have to consider down the road.

Sara Coddington, Newsline8