Facts and Policy Reforms for Maine
Like most states, the prison population in Maine skyrocketed in recent decades.
Although the population of imprisoned people in Maine is relatively low when compared to other states in the country, between 2000 and 2017, the number of people imprisoned in the state grew by 195 percent. As of July 2019, there were 2,319 people in state prisons in Maine.
In 2018, 42 percent of people who entered prison were imprisoned due to probation violations, which can include rule violations that are not crimes. Drug offenses are also a major driver of the state prison population — accounting for 33 percent of new admissions in 2018. The number of people imprisoned in the state for drug offenses increased by 59 percent between 2014 and 2018.
Unsurprisingly, Maine’s mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color. In 2018, despite accounting for only one percent of the state’s adult population, Black people in Maine accounted for 11 percent of the adult prison population. The Black adult imprisonment rate was ten times higher than that of white adults that year. Furthermore, the Native American adult imprisonment rate was five times higher than that of white adults in 2018.
The population of women in Maine prisons is also growing at an alarming rate: Between 2000 and 2017, the number of women imprisoned in the state grew by 244 percent while the number of men imprisoned grew by 35 percent over the same period.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Maine can dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Invest in statewide public defender services that ensure quality representation.
- Reduce probation and bail revocations for technical violations.
- Make citations, instead of arrests, mandatory when there is no imminent threat to public safety.
- Increase investment in and expand the Supervised Community Confinement program.
- Continue on the path away from the culture of criminalization, and decriminalize personal drug use and possession.
If Maine were to follow these and other reforms outlined in this Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, 1,261 fewer people would be in prison in Maine by 2025, saving over $91 million that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Maine’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.