Attorneys for unionized workers at the closed Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) in Machiasport are asking a judge to clarify her recent order requiring the LePage administration to keep the prison "operational" until the Legislature decides otherwise.
Attorney David Webbert says the administration disclosed Tuesday that it intends to recall five out of 55 workers who were laid off from DCF last month and return a "small population of inmates" who were abruptly transferred to other facilities in February.
"I think there's no choice but to ask the judge, ‘Is a nine percent skeleton crew an appropriate correction?’ when the facility was illegally closed in violation of the Constitution," says Webbert.
Funding for DCF runs out at the end of June. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would continue funding for another year.
"I know the governor's saying 'I closed it and it's going to be closed on June 30 anyway, why bother to reopen?' Well, two reasons: one, it was unconstitutional of you to close it and our constitution matters and, number two, the Legislature is still voting on extending it and that's not your decision,” says Webbert. “And those two points were made very clear by the judge. So, to have resistance in the face of a court order is a concern that the executive branch is not complying."
A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment on pending litigation, but the office has previously stated that "operating the facility in a minimal capacity allows the department to comply with the court order."