Biddeford District Court
People wait outside the Biddeford District Court to make their initial court appearances. Photo by Gabe Souza.

Due Process: Inside Maine’s County Courthouses


The newsroom set out to determine whether Maine’s county court system was fair and consistent from one part of the state to another. Would someone convicted of a crime in Aroostook County get the same sentence as someone in York County? What seemed like a simple question turned out to be complicated by a lack of consistent data, elected district attorneys with different approaches to justice and programs that have proven to be successful for some but unavailable to others.

We examined the criminal justice system at a time when there’s appetite for major change. With a low crime rate and relatively few violent crimes, Maine could become a place for innovation when it comes to the treatment of those with mental illness, substance use disorder or trauma that sometimes leads to crime. Our series looked at the system – successes and failures – to test whether defendants and victims can rely on it to give them due process.

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Five key findings from The Maine Monitor’s months-long investigation into the state’s county court system.

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A reminder to avoid a remand?

More than 9,000 people are incarcerated in Maine jails every year for one simple reason: They didn’t show up for their court date. Advocates say a text message system that would send court date reminders to defendants' cell phones could help reduce that number. Others say a paper reminder should be enough.


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