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"We are now fighting to make sure dangerous and violent offenders are not released"

District attorney issues statement during COVID-19 crisis

By Stephen Betts | Apr 04, 2020
District Attorney Natasha Irving

Rockland — District Attorney Natasha Irving issued a statement Friday as an update concerning the work of her office during the COVID-19 outbreak.

She is the chief prosecutor for Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, and Sagadahoc counties.

"I hope you are all well and staying safe and healthy. I am pleased that the Governor has issued a stay at home order as the science tells us that this is the fastest, safest and most efficient way to “flatten the curve”and save lives. I appreciate how seriously my community is taking this epidemic and I am confident that the work we are doing now will pay off in spades. For our people who have lost their jobs and to our businesses who have had to shut their doors, I hope that our federal and state law makers will support you in this time of need as your work has been the backbone of our state," the prosecutor stated in her April 3 statement.

"I am sure you have all seen the headlines regarding our neighbors from out of state, and how they have become the target of violence and intimidation of a small number of people who do not represent the spirit or the heart of Maine people. What was not reported is that others came to help, and we must always remember in times like these that there so many more of us here to help than us here to hurt. We are actively investigating this crime, and actions such as these will not be tolerated. We are all worried about our health, and the health of our loved ones, and we are all learning how to live through this without a frame of reference. Worry and fear can make us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily, but please remember that law enforcement is here to help keep us safe, and that if you are worried about someone not following the orders meant to keep us safe, call your local police and we can help. This virus has changed so much about how we live, but we cannot let it change who we are and what we stand for."

Irving was referring to incidents on Vinalhaven when some people cut down a tree to block a road on March 27 in an effort to force quarantine three people who had been on the island for more than 30 days. The following week, a windshield of one of the victims was broken at the Maine State Ferry Terminal.

"As I explained last week and the week before, our office has been working hand in hand with law enforcement and the judiciary to ensure our jail population is a the safest level possible for those incarcerated and working at the jails, but also ensuring that no violent or dangerous offenders are released. I have agreed to release all of those who do not pose a threat to public safety, and we are now fighting to make sure dangerous and violent offenders are not released. We will continue to fight to keep our community safe in the face of surmounting pressure to release individuals based on number of months left to serve or number of people incarcerated, instead of looking at each case individually and the need to protect victims of violence and sexual assault.More to come."

On March 24, Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll announced that 25 percent of inmates at the Knox County Jail had been released.

Carroll said on March 24 "We all take our responsibility seriously to ensure that we only release after thorough review, discussion, and consideration. It is certainly a team effort of corrections staff, administration, our programming partners, the District Attorney’s Office, Justices of the State, and Defense Attorney’s carefully reviewing before allowing persons out of confinement."

"We have nine housed at the Re-entry Center in Waldo County and we have six out on "Home Confinement." Those on HC have had various charges such as violating conditions of release from previous charges pre-trial or sentences, OUI. and related traffic offenses, Operating after license revoked, and a multitude of drug related offenses from possession to trafficking.  We also screened some that their sentences were finishing up soon and released them ahead of time with conditions of checking in or maintain counseling," the Sheriff said.

Irving also said April 3 her office was working hard to implement new strategies to identify and combat domestic violence in this unprecedented crisis.

"Incidents are up due to isolation, financial stress and existential stress, as well as increased alcohol sales. In law enforcement, we need to reinvent how we protect children and families in this new climate, and we need to do it now. Law enforcement continues to investigate, arrest and prosecute violent and sexual offenses and I want everyone to understand that we are still here doing this crucial work. Stay safe, healthy and well," Irving concluded.

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