Six Steps Toward Abolition In the Next Two Years
1. Close Long Creek!
Join the fight to close Maine’s sole youth prison, Long Creek Youth Development Center, and end youth incarceration in Maine. Maine Youth Justice, an abolitionist campaign founded by young people impacted by incarceration, says, “Our goal is to close Long Creek, Maine’s youth detention facility, and create safer and stronger communities by investing in a continuum of community-based supports where all of Maine’s young people can not only survive, but thrive.” They advocate for the reinvestment of Long Creek’s annual $18.6 million budget and the repurposing of the property into a community center and housing. The 2021 Maine Legislature passed a bill to close Long Creek, which Governor Mills vetoed.
Learn more at Maine Youth Justice.
2. Reject Any New Or Expanded Carceral Facilities In Maine
No Penobscot County Jail Expansion and De-ICE Maine are two organizations in Maine fighting against the expansion of carceral facilities in the state. Rather than invest in building new jails, expanding prisons, and building new detention centers, abolitionists advocate directing those funds toward things that would create safer, healthier communities: affordable housing, mental health support, substance use disorder treatment, poverty alleviation, and compassionate supports for immigrants.
Learn more at No Penobscot County Jail Expansion and De-ICE Maine.
3. Invest American Rescue Plan Act Funding In Direct Support To Communities Devastated By The Pandemic
Abolition calls for addressing the systemic causes of suffering in our society, which requires redistribution of resources currently used to incarcerate toward life-sustaining efforts. Funds can be used for housing assistance, direct aid, resources for teachers and students, and violence interruption programs that don’t involve the police. Resources about these funds here.
Check out these organizations at the forefront of fighting for and providing these necessities to people in Maine: Maine People’s Housing Coalition, Soar Gold, Maine Prisoner Reentry Network, People’s Housing Coalition of Portland, Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, Maine Access Points, Church of Safe Injection, Portland Overdose Prevention Society (this is not an exhaustive list).
4. Decriminalize Drug Possession
With the exception of marijuana, which was decriminalized in 1976 and fully legalized for adult recreational use in 2016, Maine’s drug laws are very harsh. Current Maine law allows prosecutors to bring furnishing and trafficking charges for amounts that could be for personal use. There is a growing movement in Maine to change punitive drug laws. In 2021, activists successfully pushed for LD994, which eliminated criminal penalties for the possession of hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia. LD967, which would have changed drug sentencing laws to make possession of drugs for personal use a civil offense with fine or health assessment, passed the Maine House and came close in the Senate, failing in a bipartisan 14-18 vote. Help end the war on drugs, which is actually a war on people, families, loved ones and communities, by supporting decriminalizing possession and treating problematic substance use as a public health issue and not a criminal matter.
Learn more at ACLU-Maine, Maine Health Equity Alliance, Needlepoint Sanctuary Bangor, Maine Recovery Advocacy Project, and Maine Drug Policy Lab at Colby College.
5. End Cash Bail
Cash bail creates two systems of justice: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else. Legally innocent people are held in jail before they’ve had their day in court simply because they can’t afford bail. In Maine, the majority of people in jail on any given day – between 60 – 80 percent – have not been convicted of a crime. Cash bail creates a system of poverty-based incarceration and is a key driver of mass incarceration. Studies have found that defendants who can’t afford bail are more likely to be sentenced to longer jail or prison time. They are also more likely to take plea deals and plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. In 2021, Maine passed a law to eliminate cash bail for non-violent, low-level misdemeanors (known as Class E misdemeanors). This is an important first step in a longer journey to end the practice of cash bail altogether.
Join these and other organizations working to eliminate cash bail in Maine: ACLU-Maine, Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
6. End Solitary Confinement
Solitary confinement is torture. Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating an incarcerated person in a cell for 22-24 hours per day, with extremely limited human contact; natural light, and access to materials like books, television and the radio which approximate contact with the outside world. Incarcerated people in solitary experience deteriorating mental health, including hallucinations, severe anxiety, detachment from reality and engaging in self-harm. People who’ve been in solitary have trouble reintegrating into social settings, both within prison and upon release, and many experience lasting mental health impacts. While Maine has engaged in significant reforms to how prisons use solitary confinement, it is still permitted.
Learn more: Join Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition’s mailing list to stay updated on efforts to end solitary confinement.
How Have You Been Affected by Maine’s Criminal Legal System?
Tell your story of how you have been affected by Maine’s criminal justice operations for the Freedom & Captivity Archive, housed online at the Maine Historical Society.
The Freedom & Captivity Archive is a story bank of how criminal justice operations in Maine have affected Mainers across generations, locations, backgrounds, and experiences. The archive is hosted in Maine Historical Society’s My Maine Stories website. It is open to anyone who has a story to tell about being affected by the criminal justice system, whether directly or through a family member or friend. You can submit your story as a written story, a video, an audio piece, or in photographs. Your story can be anonymous, and you can help someone else tell their story.
Some possible story prompts include:
- – Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
- – How did the system impact you?
- – How did it feel to be touched or impacted by the system?
- – How did it affect the people who love you?
- – What has happened to you since you were impacted?
- – What do you want people to know about your experience?
- – What does freedom mean to you?
To share your story, go to the Tell My Story page and fill in the form. For ‘Story Topic’ select ‘Freedom & Captivity’. This form will ask for your information, story title, and story summary. You can make your story anonymous by checking the ‘Make me anonymous’ box.
Questions? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
State of Maine Bill of Rights for Incarcerated Individuals
A living document from Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition
All incarcerated citizens and noncitizens have certain inalienable rights that shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, gender identification, race, color, religion, national origin, physical and/or mental handicap, sexual orientation or as a punitive measure in the form of retaliation against the incarcerated individual or loved ones.
1. Whereas, humane conditions are an absolute expectation of a civilized society, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a safe and healthy environment that is free of physical, emotional, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse and harassment;
2. Whereas, government has a fundamental responsibility to protect those in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– timely, free health and dental care that includes, but is not limited to, substance use disorder treatment, trauma-informed mental health care reproductive health care and preventative care in all areas, including vaccinations and regular exercise;
– gender responsive health care, recognizing all gender identities; and accessible and responsive health care for individuals with disabilities;
3. Whereas, respect for human dignity extends to people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– personal hygiene and menstrual items, at no cost; and
– gender parity in all areas including but not limited to access to visits, medical care, technology, education, and programming;
4. Whereas, the last vestiges of slave labor and similar practices must end, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– be considered employees of the state and subject to the minimum wage requirements afforded employees, as well as safe working conditions;
5. Whereas, constitutional rights do not end when people are convicted or held in pre-trial status, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– full voting privileges as accorded by law, including the ability to register to vote and have contact with their elected representatives;
6. Whereas, food sustains life and has heightened importance to many people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a balanced diet that meets established requirements for nutrition and conforms to medical, religious and/or ethical needs;
7. Whereas, human contact is vital to personal well-being and family relations, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– in-person visits with family members and other loved ones that include physical contact, support for and opportunities for continued parental involvement and reunification after successful completion of any required programming; and
– freedom from solitary confinement, which can have profound and permanent detrimental impacts on mental and physical health;
8. Whereas, ties with relatives and friends benefit people in jails and prisons, as well as their families and communities, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– access to electronic communications to speak and interact with families and loved ones at east weekly;
9. Whereas, the safe and humane functioning of jails and prisons benefits from the ideas and insights of those being held, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– provide input on issues related to the facility including lockdowns, education and recreation services, and staff conduct;
10. Whereas, concerns and problems raised by people in jails and prisons must be taken seriously and properly evaluated, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a simple, formal, credible and transparent grievance process that includes an independent prisoner advocate for all facilities free from DOC oversight;
– unimpeded access to every facility’s Board of Visitors, their contact information and input into the required reports.
11. Whereas, virtually everyone being held will be returning to our communities and is deserving of assistance to make the transitions successful, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– meaningful reentry planning, regardless of classification, from day one of incarceration, backed by financial support from the DOC that ensures community support, housing, employment opportunities and healthcare access, and which allows for choices in programming and input from the resident.