Gov. LePage considers releasing female inmates to ease workforce shortage

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[Quick -- make this man a VP at Walmart! Slavery as a business model. *RON*]

Marissa Bodnar, WGME News [Maine], 31 May 2017

Days after releasing more than a dozen male prisoners, the governor says he's now looking at female inmates and hoping they can help relieve a shortage of workers across the state as the summer tourism season gets underway. (WGME)
AUGUSTA (WGME) -- Days after releasing more than a dozen male prisoners, the governor says he's now looking at female inmates and hoping they can help relieve a shortage of workers across the state as the summer tourism season gets underway.

Steve Hewins, who heads Maine's Restaurant and Innkeepers Association, said the shortage is so severe it's already impacting some businesses, and now is as good a time as any to consider out of the box ideas.

"I'm open to any option and I exclude nothing," said Hewins.

Hewins said the hospitality industry needs all the help it can get.

"Some of the restaurants are delaying their openings when they normally might be open. Now they're not quite ready," he said. "I've heard some inns closed off sections of their property because they can't clean the rooms."

This week, Governor Paul LePage proposed some solutions during a radio interview, like asking the federal government for help securing workers from overseas and continuing to take a look behind bars.

"The whole point here is to try to get non-violent or low-risk people out of our prisons and back into society," he said.

LePage made the suggestion about looking at female inmates on the weekly radio appearance, but declined to elaborate at the statehouse on Wednesday.

"I'm busy," he said. "It's in the pipeline. We're working on it. It takes time."

This comes after 17 male prisoners were released on Friday. Their sentences were commuted so they can get jobs as the state faces a workforce shortage.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick tells CBS 13 they're looking at female inmates now using the same strict criteria, which excludes violent criminals, sex offenders and drug traffickers. Given the smaller population, he expects the number of eligible females to be in the single digits.

"I don't think it's going to solve our problems, but certainly it's part of the matrix that could help," said Hewins.

While one business owner said there's no way they'd consider hiring an inmate, Hewins said he thinks some would be open to the idea.

"The need is so great they will look at sources they might not traditionally look at," he said.

Fitzpatrick said the list of eligible female inmates is expected to be on the governor's desk by Wednesday and they could be released as early as this week.

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