Sen. Maxmin introduces bill to increase alternative sentencing opportunities

Posted: April 20, 2021 | Judiciary, Senator Maxmin

AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, Sen. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, introduced LD 957, “An Act To Reform Alternative Sentencing Programs,” which would make community service and education activities an alternative option to jail for more Mainers convicted of low-level crimes. The bill was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“For many people convicted of low-level crimes, alternative sentencing programs provide a better pathway for future success than jail time does,” said Sen. Maxmin. “These programs give people the chance to find connection in their communities and to get their lives back on track. I’m glad to support any effort that makes these opportunities available to more Mainers.”

Alternative sentencing programs typically include community service projects and education programs as a substitute to serving jail time. LD 957 would allow judges to order people in deferred disposition to participate in these programs, which they are not currently able to do. Deferred disposition requires a person to enter a guilty plea up front but delays sentencing, typically for a period of one year. During the deferment period, the court can impose requirements on the person to help them live a law-abiding life. At the end of the deferment period, charges may be dropped or reduced, or the person may be sentenced to serve time.

Sen. Maxmin introduced the bill after speaking with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney Natasha Irving. Alternative sentencing programs help keep jails less crowded while giving those guilty of low-level crimes the opportunity to learn and connect with their communities. The bill has the support of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association.

“Engaging in alternative sentencing is extremely valuable in creating a sense of accountability, belonging, community, as well as creating connections with addiction and mental health treatment providers,” said Irving. “Citizens charged with criminal offenses will benefit greatly from this enriching experience and come out less likely to reoffend, thus creating safer communities and avoiding future victimization.”

LD 957 faces further action in committee.