New Knox-Waldo corrections position creates first-in-state collaboration

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 4:30pm

    ROCKLAND — There’s soon to be a new administrator in town – part of the time, at least – and through the newly created position, a first-of-its-kind Maine collaboration has developed.

    Starting July 1, Major Raymond Porter will take on the newly created role of Unified Corrections Administrator for Knox and Waldo counties.

    He will divide his time between the Belfast and Rockland offices, coordinating the corrections operations for both counties, and in the process, is to create a progressively efficient, fiscally responsible regional correctional system, according to Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll, during a news conference to announce the position, June 13.

    His job description has yet to be officially defined; yet, of all people within the corrections system who’d be tasked with developing the position’s requirements, likely the task would fall to Porter, anyway.

    Porter is a 26-year employee of corrections. Through his new position, the sheriffs of Knox and Waldo counties predict a strengthening of community, a decrease in recidivism, and an overall gain for both regions through shared resources.

    For Knox County, the new role fills the void created when Corrections Administrator John Hinckley retired, May 3.

    Due to the uniqueness of each county’s prison systems, the spectrum of the role is being expanded.

    Waldo County houses the only county-operated, full service Men’s Reentry Center in the state. Knox County maintains a 70-bed traditional jail.

    What they have in common, besides proximity, is a number of mutual offenders, an opioid epidemic, and progressive citizens stepping to the plate.

    “They say it takes a community to raise a child,” said Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton. “It [also] takes a community to have an effective corrections system to turn folks around, reduce recidivism and bring these communities together to help us. I believe Knox County is ready. I think we have a community down here that’s ready to step up, work with Sheriff Carroll and Ray Porter. And I believe we can do some exciting things.”

    The idea for the collaboration came during a chance conversation by Carroll and Waldo County Chief Deputy Jason Trundy during a meeting in Portland three months ago. The idea quickly gained momentum, leading to an hour-long presentation to Knox County Commissioners in May. During the next meeting, June 11, the three Commissioners unanimously approved the part-time position.

    There was no hesitation, according to Knox County Commissioner Dorothy Meriwether.

    “We listened to what they had to say, and it all sounded great,” she said.

    Porter has been provided with a one-year contract, will continue to be paid through Waldo County so that his benefits will stay intact, according to Carroll. Knox County will reimburse Waldo County for its share of the employment.

    Until now, Porter has not only worked as Waldo County’s corrections and jail administrator, and State Corrections, he’s also been involved with the county’s community collaboration surrounding opioid use.

    “He has spent the past eight years really teaching me about corrections,” said Trafton.

    During that time, the jail population in Waldo County has gone from the highs of 60 and 70 prisoners a day down to a current rate of 23 or 24 prisoners on any given day.

    “I attribute a lot of that to Major Porter’s knowledge of corrections and his willingness to work outside the box.”

    Porter, in turn, attributes his success to the employees within the system.

    “As a leader, I see myself working very closely with the people who really make it happen....One of the things that I highly respect about Corrections and Corrections officers, they are the people that spend the most time with the individuals that are in those facilities. And who most has the best influence? It’s our Corrections professionals across the state and within Knox and Waldo counties. That is what gives me confidence that this will work.”