Maine lawmakers to consider 15 criminal justice bills

Bail reform and making substance use disorder treatment available to Maine’s incarcerated population are among 15 criminal justice bills to be considered this legislative session.
The black dome of the Maine State House stands among the trees.
Photo by Samantha Hogan.

Lawmakers will consider more than two dozen bills this session that seek to reform the state’s criminal justice system, some of which were carried over from last year and others that move recommendations forward from task forces and committees.

Other bills could be approved for consideration by the Legislative Council, a bipartisan panel of legislative leaders who control the flow of bills in the second session, which is scheduled to end by mid-April.

Here’s a list of 15 bills, by committee, that are set to be considered, according to a report compiled by the Legislative Information Office:

Criminal Justice and Public Safety

LD 182: An Act to Amend the Maine Bail Code Regarding the Financial Capacity of a Defendant to Post Bond. Sponsored by Rep. Teresa Pierce (D-Falmouth), the bill amends the bail code so that unless someone is dangerous or a flight risk, they cannot be held in jail because they can’t afford to post bond.

LD 973: An Act to Stabilize County Corrections. Sponsored by Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell), the bill will bring forward the recommendations of a committee of lawmakers, county commissioners and sheriffs that met several times in 2019 to find a way to stabilize funding for Maine’s jails.

LD 1096: An Act to Require that Comprehensive Substance Use Disorder Treatment Be Made Available to Maine’s Incarcerated Population. Sponsored by Sen. Linda Sanborn (D-Gorham), the bill calls for the Commissioner of Corrections to provide substance use disorder treatment in prison facilities. It allocates $2 million a year for two years from the state’s general fund to pay for the program.

LD 1108: Resolve, Establishing the Task Force on Alternatives to Incarceration for Maine Youth. Sponsored by Rep. Michael Brennan (D-Portland), the bill was carried over following the creation of a task force to study the future of the system after some called for the closure of Long Creek Youth Development Center. Recommendations are expected early this year.

LD 1210: Resolve, to Direct the Commissioner of Corrections to Study Changes in Corrections Practices and Reinvestment in Corrections Resources to Reduce Recidivism and Control Correctional Facility Costs. Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), the bill directs the Commissioner of Corrections to find ways to use alternative sentencing, “harm reduction and mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

LD 1221: An Act to Allow Deductions from Prison Sentences for Rehabilitative Activities. Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), the bill calls for an additional 7.5 days per month to be taken off a sentence if someone earns a high school equivalency diploma while incarcerated or participates in other approved programming.

LD 1421: An Act to Amend the Bail Code. Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), the bill amends the bail code in seven ways, including that a person setting bail must consider whether someone is a caregiver, has mental health needs or would be in jeopardy of losing a job if he or she is incarcerated.

LD 1492: An Act to Reform Drug Sentencing Laws. Sponsored by Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center (D-Rockland), the bill relaxes or eliminates provisions regarding possession, trafficking and furnishing drugs and hypodermic needles.

Judiciary Committee

LD 302: An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Post-Conviction Review in Order to Facilitate the Fair Hearing of All Evidence in Each Case Involving a Claim of Innocence. Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I-Friendship), the bill allows those who claim they are innocent to file a request for a review anytime as long as it is not within one year of a review on the same charge.

LD 1061: An Act to Establish a Fund to Compensate Unjustly Incarcerated Persons. Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I-Friendship), the bill would require someone to be paid $25,000 for each year they were unjustly incarcerated and an additional $10,000 for each year the person had to register as a sex offender.

LD 1067: An Act to Promote Fairness and Efficiency in the Delivery of Indigent Legal Services. Sponsored by Rep. Barbara Cardone (D-Bangor), the bill proposes the implementation of recommendations by the Sixth Amendment Center, which released a report in April 2019 criticizing the state for failing to provide effective legal representation for Maine’s poor and failing to contain costs.

LD 1684: An Act to Clarify the Right to Counsel for Juveniles and Improve Due Process for Juveniles. Sponsored by Rep. Victoria Morales (D-South Portland), the bill would prevent children younger than 12 from being prosecuted for crimes, prevent children younger than 14 from being incarcerated and change the current requirement that juveniles who are incarcerated be held for at least one year.

LD 1759: An Act Regarding the Electronic Data and Court Records Filed in the Electronic Case Management System of the Supreme Judicial Court. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Carpenter (D-Houlton), the bill requires the court to develop standards for the handling of public records in the new case management system that is being installed.

Appropriations Committee

LD 44: An Act Regarding the Maine Criminal Code. Sponsored by Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell), the bill makes several technical changes to the criminal code, including creating a new crime for “the reckless violation of a duty of care or protection that results in death or serious bodily injury to the child.”

LD 279: An Act to Raise Juror Pay to $50 per Day. Sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville), the bill would raise juror pay from $15 to $50 a day.


Susan Cover

Susan Cover has been a journalist for 24 years, working at newspapers in Kansas, Rhode Island, Ohio and Maine. In 2002, Susan moved to Maine to cover state government and spent 10 years in the Statehouse Bureau working for the Kennebec Journal. She covered state budgets, hundreds of bills, and referenda campaigns including bear baiting and marriage equality. In 2013, Susan was promoted to city editor at the Kennebec Journal, leading a team of reporters and photographers to put out each day’s paper. Susan is a graduate of Muskingum University in Ohio and has a master’s degree in newspaper journalism from Syracuse University. Most recently, Susan left daily newspaper journalism to pursue freelance writing and her other passion – taking run-down houses in Kennebec County and bringing them back to life. She lives in Augusta with her partner and their pets – Piper the cat and Wooley the dog.
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