More than 400 pieces of Maine legislation are in limbo, including measures to reform the state’s criminal justice system, following the sudden adjournment of the Legislature last week because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus. There is urgency to decide on these bills before new representatives are elected in November.
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.
Washington County officials, feeling neglected by the district attorney they share with Hancock County, want their own prosecutorial district to help address the growth of drug-related offenses. The unequal relationship between the counties highlights a disparity in Maine’s district court system.
Deferred dispositions are handled differently in Cumberland County compared to the rest of Maine, exemplifying another disparity in the state’s judicial system.
Efforts to eliminate cash bail are being considered in the legislative and judicial branches as Maine examines ways to reform its criminal justice system.
Through plea bargains, mandatory minimums and growing political clout, Maine’s DAs wield plenty of power in an increasingly inconsistent judicial system.
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.
A lack of consistent data, district attorneys with differing agendas and inconsistencies with services offered around the state have many pushing for reforms to Maine’s court system.
The Maine Monitor has been selected to participate in ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in 2020. The year-long grant will allow Samantha Hogan to continue reporting on the challenges facing Maine’s court system.
By taking “three steps back,” Maine legislators give local school districts more power to decide what works best in their communities.
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