Penobscot County wants to add 100 beds to its overcrowded jail

BANGOR DAILY NEWS - Penobscot County is asking architectural firms for proposals to add about 100 beds to its existing jail on Hammond Street in Bangor, marking the county’s latest attempt to ease overcrowding at the 161-year-old facility that regularly exceeds its licensed capacity of 157 inmates.

After deliberating for years on alleviating overcrowding and proposing to build an entirely new jail before putting that plan on hold, county commissioners said Tuesday that their latest course of action will be to add onto the existing Penobscot County Jail.

The county would pay for the bulk of construction through borrowing, though it will look into using a portion of its $30 million in federal American Rescue Plan money to pay a portion of the costs, said Peter Baldacci, chair of the county commission.

In addition to 100 more beds, the expanded facility would include a new and safer intake area, an expanded medical unit so inmates may be cared for in the facility rather than admitted to local hospitals when ill and new space that would allow for more programming.

The annex behind the Historic County Courthouse where most county government offices are located would be torn down to make room for the proposed addition.

The former YMCA building up Hammond Street that the county has eyed as the location for a new jail would be partially renovated to house offices now in the jail. The section that housed the swimming pool and the racquetball courts would be demolished.

“The addition to the jail would be a priority over the Y work,” Baldacci said Tuesday. “We need to have capacity for 250 inmates. That’s what we consistently have in-house and boarded out.”

The county is looking into using the federal recovery money to pay for construction that addresses safety, such as the expanded medical unit and intake area, Baldacci said. He also said commissioners want to set aside some recovery funds for substance use treatment and preventive programs, something that members of the public have urged them to do.

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