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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.
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.
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.
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.