A union official says teams from the Maine Department of Corrections moved inmates from the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport to another prison early Friday morning.
That's according to WMTW-TV, which reports that the information came from Jim Mackie, a representative of AFSCME Council 93, the union that represents corrections officers and other staff at the Bucksport facility.
Mackie told WMTW that employees were informed Friday morning that they were on paid administrative leave through sometime in March. He told the station that the inmates were taken by bus to the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston.
"They rolled in at 4:30 a.m. this morning under the cover of darkness," Mackie told the station. "We are trying to decide to see if there is any legal action we can take."
Mackie told WMTW that neither legislative leaders nor staff at the facility were notified of the move.
For more than a year, prison guards, local employers and town administrators have joined forces in an uphill battle to keep the doors open at the minimum-security prison. Gov. Paul LePage has vowed to close it, arguing that it’s not worth the $5 million a year to keep it operating.
Last year, after the administration encountered strong opposition from lawmakers in both parties, LePage agreed to keep it open through the end of the fiscal year in June.
A bill that would provide $5.5 million in funding to keep the prison running for the next fiscal year is making its way through the Legislature. The measure would also require the Department of Corrections to conduct a thorough analysis to determine what effect the facility’s closure would have on prisoners, their families and the communities of Washington County.