Conditions Inside Penobscot County Jail
Penobscot County Jail (“PCJ”) is often referred to by people who have spent time inside as "the worst jail in the state."
Delays and denials of urgent medical and mental health care and a lack of substance use disorder and withdrawal treatment are both common and significant issues. However, the problems don't stop there.
People incarcerated inside Penobscot County Jail commonly report:
Filthy, hazardous conditions. Incarcerated people report dirty and disgusting conditions, including the presence of bodily fluids such as blood and feces which remain for days, debris caked onto food trays, delays in accessing clean clothing including underwear, missing hygiene supplies, and more.
Conditions within Holding and so-called “Quarantine Blocks” are especially severe.
Delay and denial of necessary medical care. People who have been jailed report waiting days or weeks to see medical staff due to a bureaucratic and unreliable system of paper “requests” that must be submitted, using uncooperative, mocking and uncaring guards as go-betweens.
Delay and denial of necessary mental health care. People inside PCJ report submitting multiple requests and enduring painful delays in an effort to see a mental health team and receive appropriate medication. Numerous other reports have been received detailing incorrect medication, medication dose cuts, and inappropriate medication substitution, such as substitution with older, cheaper and more unsafe psychiatric drugs.
Inappropriate and verbally abusive guards. People jailed in PCJ report that many guards are verbally vicious, mocking, lack a functional workplace culture, and threaten and carry out retributive punishment, such as solitary confinement, for “troublemakers” who self-advocate.
Very limited access to substance use disorder treatment and no safe withdrawal from drugs. Despite the increasing availability and success of medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders (“MAT”) and safe, medically-managed withdrawal, PCJ does not offer all MAT pharmaceutical drugs, and delays and denials of prescribed medication are the norm. Many people are taken off their MAT, even when the jail presumably offers their MAT type.
A Freedom of Access Request submitted by No Penobscot County Jail Expansion in 2021 revealed that in 2020, only 95 people received their prescribed Medication Assisted Treatment while at PCJ. This contradicts frequent claims by jail officials that they offer a robust MAT program.
Methadone is stopped upon entering jail. Incarcerated people who have been safely and legally taking methadone for substance use disorder treatment will have their medication stopped when they enter jail, except in cases of pregnancy. Discontinuing methadone places incarcerated people at high risk of relapse and fatal overdose upon release.
Incarcerated people cannot begin new substance use treatment programs. Incarcerated people in PCJ can’t start a new substance abuse treatment program while in jail, even if it was drug abuse that brought them to jail in the first place. Withdrawals from substances are not medically treated nor adequately monitored, and can be excruciating and prolonged, leading to mental health crises, significant medical risks and PTSD.