Inmates complain of conditions amid lockdown at Maine jail

Inmates at a Maine jail that has imposed a near-total lockdown because of a coronavirus outbreak and staffing shortages say the conditions are taking a toll on their mental health.

Dustin Beach, one inmate at the Cumberland County Jail, tells The Portland Press Herald that the conditions are “cruel and unusual.” Another, who has been been awaiting trial for two years on armed robbery charges, says it's driving him “insane.”

“Being locked in a cell all the time, it’s hard to control how you feel sometimes. Emotions come and go as they please," Zachary Conway said.

Jail administrators recently told officials that inmates are locked in their cells for 23 hours each day, but inmates say they’re being allowed out even less than one hour.

The newspaper says the lockdown has been going on since at least mid-September after nearly two dozen inmates and staff contracted the virus. The county recently declared an emergency at the jail for the first time in its history.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce said Wednesday that the most recent round of testing showed seven staff members and nine inmates are positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-one corrections officers have resigned from the jail this year. It’s budgeted for 129 positions and about 60 staffers are currently working.