Maine pines over shooting at escapees

Feb 28th, 2014 | By | Category: Escapes, Ethics, Non-violence kills, Paco's Podium, Spotlight, Use of Force

How does a state with no death penalty justify using lethal force to stop escapes?  Maine, it seems, is fretting over precisely that.

How does a state with no death penalty justify using lethal force to stop escapes? Maine, it seems, is fretting over precisely that.

OUR OPINION: Maine Correctional Center does not need ‘shoot-to-kill’

Escapes shouldn’t be a captial offense for low-risk inmates.
Editorial Board | Morning Sentinel
Should trying to escape from the Maine Correctional Center be a capital offense? A proposal before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee could make it one.

Guards at the Maine Correctional Center, a medium- and minimum-security prison in Windham, currently have the right to shoot an escaping prisoner who has committed a dangerous crime or who is putting a staff member or another inmate in danger.

L.D. 1588 would allow Maine Correctional Center guards to shoot at any escaping inmate solely for the act of escape. The proposal offers a disproportionately severe punishment in response to a relatively low risk, and moving ahead with this bill would be a mistake…Maine doesn’t have a death penalty for any offense, including trying to break out of prison. Thus, allowing guards to shoot fleeing inmates regardless of whether they present a threat to life amounts to imposing “the death penalty on someone trying to go over the fence,” Rep. Mark Dion, House chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, has said. (Dion, who sponsored the bill, has said he did so at the Corrections Department’s request because it consisted largely of housekeeping measures.)…(Full text at  Morning Sentinel)

At first blink, Paco was somewhat incredulous to learn Maine doesn’t authorize shooting at fleeing prisoners.  After all, back in the days before California discovered the lethal fence, all inmates within an armed perimeter were made aware climbing the perimeter fence would likely result in a gunshot wound or two. And shoot them we did.

It all seemed OK to me but, as noted, I worked in antebellum CDC–It was within policy to break-up a fist-fight with a little friendly riflery. Which is to say, my “normal” is admittedly a few gears up from today’s agency–My CDCR was the California Department of Corrections and Riflery.

In any case, I do think the Editors at the Sentinel make a good point: In a state where you cannot be sentenced to death, why kill people who try to escape? For that matter, what’s up with all the potentially lethal razor wire?

I once toured a maximum security prison in New South Wales, Australia. In lieu of razor wire, the fences there were topped with slick metal conduit designed to be “climb proof.” It was all very tidy and humane.

The facility also had regular escape attempts, a high rate of successful escapes as well as a high rate of staff injuries suffered tackling and fighting escapees.  The superiority of razor wire and bullets in deterring escapes aside, the Aussie’s were aghast at the  mention of CDC’s barbaric tactics.

So, Paco says, if Maine doesn’t feel right shooting at escapees, good for them.  When some rapist or murderer gets out and does something horrid, at least everyone can feel satisfied the convict’s escape was facilitated in the name of humanity.

That said, if it was my call, I’d say shoot them–The efficacy and deterrent effect of  shooting escapees is as evidence based as it gets.

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2 Comments to “Maine pines over shooting at escapees”

  1. Bob Walsh says:

    I am with Howie on this one Jeff. They are probably escaping to resume their criminal career rather than just making a beer run or going to their mother’s funeral..

  2. Howie Katz says:

    Paco, there you are again being a Neanderthal. Shooting an escapee? How cruel can you get?

    Seriously tough, this is a load of crap. The editors of the Morning Sentinel must have been smoking some funny tobacco when they came up with this editorial. It probably did not occur to them that the inmates in Maine’s correctional facilities are not there because they sang off-key in the church choir. I am sure that during the initial orientation, the newly arrived guests were informed that an escape is a no-no, and if they try it, they are subject to be shot … that is shot dead!

    And while we’re at it, I am so sick and tired of the ‘low-risk’ category. There have been countless instances in which a low-risk offender turned into a cold-blooded killer. In my professorial opinion, every escapee should be considered a ‘high risk’ individual.