Fighting an unnecessary, harmful and expensive expansion
On Nov. 15, 2021, Penobscot County requested proposals for renovating the Penobscot County Jail. Proposals “must accommodate an average daily inmate population of at least 260, with the ability to expand to a daily population of 360.” That's more than double the jail’s current capacity of 157.
To pay for this, the county is exploring borrowing options and using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that are intended to relieve the effects of COVID on cities, states and counties.
We believe the expansion of the jail is unnecessary and counterintuitive in solving the crises we are seeing in Penobscot County, including poverty, mental health, homelessness, and drug overdose deaths. Funds intended to help with COVID's impact on our economy, hospitals, schools, and vulnerable communities should not be used to build or expand jails, which cause documented harm.
To speak out about this use of American Rescue Plan funds, please join an upcoming Listening Session.
of people in jail are held pre-trial
of women in jail have a disability
of people in jail have a substance use disorder
"When I got out of PCJ, I went right back to using and the same routine. I don’t think jail is the answer to substance use. You can put people in jail, but they don’t learn anything. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to substance use in jails."
The Penobscot Jail Storytelling Project is a community-based, multidisciplinary project raising up the voices and priorities of people who have been jailed in Penobscot County, Maine. The project was formed to listen for unmet needs in the community that lead to incarceration, to better understand the priorities and insights of people who have been incarcerated, and to document inhumane conditions within the jail.
The stories can be disturbing, revealing a jail in chaos where human dignity and basic rights are routinely pushed aside and medical and mental health crises are constant. Many individuals suffer long-lasting traumas following their incarceration.
To assess those problems and to act in solidarity with people who are or have been incarcerated at PCJ, as well as to inform the public, influence decision makers, and put human faces and stories to the problems which affect our community and its jail, the project conducts respectful interviews with incarcerated and previously incarcerated people. Along the way, we hear stories of fears, hopes, growth and compassion that reinforce our shared needs, fears, and hopes as human beings.
To read more stories, visit Stories of Incarceration online.