WINDHAM, Maine — State officials unveiled an updated version of a plan to renovate and expand the Maine Correctional Center’s main campus in Windham on Dec. 16, just three weeks after the groundbreaking of a new, 21,500-square-foot women’s re-entry facility being built nearby.
The multimillion-dollar project was first proposed about three years ago, but the expansion has been a goal of the Maine Department of Corrections for about 15 years, mainly to help boost security and address issues of overcrowding, reported Keep Me Current. The existing facility dates back to the 1930s and currently holds about 600 beds. It houses minimum- and medium-security inmates and serves as the state’s intake or reception facility; however, it does not meet modern security standards. The facility has been built little by little throughout the years, and now includes nooks and crannies that make it difficult to observe inmates, the department’s Director of Operations Gary LaPlante told Keep Me Current. The expansion would add offices and inmate care facilities as well as about 200 to 250 beds to help handle more inmates. Programming and treatment programs would also be improved as part of the project.
The project is estimated to cost about $171 million and would require a bond and approval from state Legislature. In winter 2014, state lawmakers did not approve the project, which forced the department to go back and rework its plan. The most recent plan calls for a combination of expanding and renovating the footprint of the prison, situating new buildings closer to the existing structures and not as close to a nearby neighborhood like in the old plan, according to Keep Me Current. The new proposal also includes repurposing some of the existing prison buildings, which helps save on costs.
The next step in the process is giving the state Criminal Justice Committee a tour of the facility in January and hosting more community meetings and public forums about the project to help advertise the new proposal in 2016. Officials currently say that construction would take five years to complete from start to finish; however, the start date is yet to be determined. The new project would be 50 percent funded by the department.