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Maine Sees A Decline In State Prison Population

Overall crime in Maine isn't the only thing that's going down: so is the number of prisoners in the state. Maine's prison population is down from a high of nearly 2,500 prisoners just over one year ago to about 2,240 this month, the lowest it's been in about seven years.

Ryan Thornell is the deputy commissioner for the Maine Department of Corrections.

"We're down about 250 men and women,” Thornell says. “We're hovering around 2240, which is a low in the last seven or eight years."

Deputy Corrections Commissioner Ryan Thornell says the shrinking number of prisoners means the Department of Corrections can use existing facilities more efficiently, and it also creates opportunities for programming.

As for why the numbers are dropping, Thornell says it's a reflection of what is happening around the state.

"Everybody's really reexamining how they approach criminal justice issues, which includes law enforcement, community stakeholders, the court system and, obviously, the corrections system," he says.

Criminal justice reform is likely to be a big issue in the next legislative session. And Thornell says one of the biggest challenges will be keeping former prisoners from returning to prison.