|Sudden loss of work-release inmates from closed prison leaves Down East businesses short-staffed|
|By pressherald.com- Kevin Miller|
The second shift at Maine Wild Blueberry Co.’s facility in Machias was in full swing early Friday when, without warning, state police troopers came for some of the workers.
The LePage administration had ordered the 60-plus remaining inmates at the Downeast Correctional Facility transferred to other prisons. While police loaded most inmates onto buses at the Machiasport minimum-security prison, a separate team rounded up work-release prisoners on the sanitation crew at the Machias plant owned by Cherryfield Foods, one of Maine’s largest wild blueberry companies.
“The state police showed up before dawn and removed the people from the facility, so we received no prior warning,” said David Bell, general manager of Cherryfield Foods, which had just shy of 20 work-release inmates from the prison on staff. “This week we had to suspend the second shift, so our production is cut in half.”
Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to suddenly transfer prisoners and place more than 30 Downeast Correctional Facility staffers on administrative leave infuriated local elected officials who, until Friday, had successfully resisted the governor’s previous attempts to close the aging Machiasport prison. Now businesses that depended on work-release inmates to supplement their staffing say they have been forced to close or scale back operations as they seek replacement workers.
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