Neighbors outraged over prisoner re-entry home

By Stephen Betts | Jun 10, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts Erika Schneyer of Rockland voiced outrage over the lack of notification for a planned prisoner re-entry center in her residential neighborhood.

Rockland — Rockland residents turned out Monday night to express outrage at what they said was an effort by a Camden woman to sneak a prisoner re-entry house into the middle of their residential neighborhood.

Speakers who sharply criticized the proposed re-entry house at 215 Talbot Ave. were greeted with long applause from the gathering as Mayor Lisa Westkaemper used her gavel to try to quiet the show of support. She repeatedly asked for decorum.

Erika Schneyer said she has never seen anything like this as there was no notification to neighbors.

"This bloody Camden woman is trying to sneak something into our neighborhood without notice," Schneyer said.

"This is ... un-American," she said. Neighbors said they were unaware of the plan until after the house was sold.

Brenda Kurr said her son Jason Moody was murdered last November in Bangor and now she will have to live near a house where she will have to fear prisoners living near her home.

Freedom Path LLC purchased 215 Talbot Ave. in Rockland on June 3, according to the Knox County Registry of Deeds filing. Freedom Path LLC filed paperwork May 16 with the Maine Secretary of State to create the limited liability corporation. No officers are listed on its state filing. The group's attorney Edward Collins is listed on the paperwork.

Kathryn Matlack of Camden issued a brief statement Tuesday, June 11 about the project but said she was not prepared to talk about why there had been no notifications to neighbors before she purchased the property.

She said hundreds of men get released from prison each year and they are already our neighbors but we are not aware. These men are in need of housing, transportation, and other support, pointing out that housing is incredibly hard to find for them.

Matlack said she was trying to arrange for a meeting with the community and was trying to find facilitators for a respectful and safe meeting.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said at the Monday evening meeting that the city has been unsuccessful in reaching Matlack.

Code Enforcement Officer John Root has said the project needs no city approval since city ordinances allow up to three non-relatives to rent rooms in a single-family home along with the owner and its family. He said the proposal he has heard is for a counselor and three other people to use the home.

Residents said it was outrageous that short-term rentals require city review but this project requires none. Other residents said they disagreed with the code officer's interpretation since no family will be living in the house.

Mary Eads, executive director of Bartlett Woods, pointed out that an expansion of the housing for elderly residents took a year-and-a-half to go through the Planning Board process yet this project is being allowed with no review.

She said elderly residents will be concerned about living near this home and said it could be the end of Bartlett Woods if this project is allowed to open.

The home had been owned by Genevieve Sprinkle of Portland who had received a city permit in 2017 to use the home as a short-term rental. The house has 14 rooms including four bedrooms, according to the city assessment records.

Suzanne MacDonald said she and her husband have two small children and are located within 10 feet of this house. She criticized the organizer's effort to get the project in the city without any notification.

Pam Walton said Matlack was taking advantage of a loophole in Rockland's ordinance but that she would never consider establishing such a center in her Camden neighborhood.

McDonald and other neighbors called for the City Council to enact a moratorium on such projects. Neighbors said any re-entry facility should be more in a commercial area.

City Councilors were receptive to considering action to meet the concerns of residents including considering a moratorium.

Councilor Ed Glaser said the city should invite the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections to attend a city meeting. The city manager said that any re-entry program would need to approval of the Corrections commissioner.

Councilor Valli Geiger noted City Councilors were only aware of the project shortly before the Monday evening meeting.

Councilor Ben Dorr expressed empathy for the neighbors.

"We feel your pain," Dorr said.

Late Monday, Matlack sent an email to the city's code officer to try to arrange a meeting. In the email, she described the program. She said the plan is to have a live-in manager and to begin taking in residents in mid-July.

"Unity House is committed to working closely with probation officers and other social service providers in order to ensure that we are proactively addressing the substance abuse, education, employment, mental health and criminal justice issues confronting each individual resident," she stated.

People convicted of sex offenses or arson will not be accepted into the program, she stated. People with "intense" mental health or substance abuse problems also will not be qualified for the program, she stated in the email.

Comments (16)
Posted by: Linda Hillgrove | Jun 13, 2019 11:00

Erika Schneyer, I believe is a psychotherapist with 30 years experience working with prisoners, the mentally, etc. And has never seen a transition house in a neighborhood such as Talbot Ave. She made excellent had to be there.


Posted by: Linda Hillgrove | Jun 13, 2019 10:56

One speaker at the meeting, a psychotherapist with 30 years experience working with prisoners, the mentally ill etc., stated the location is not appropriate and should be located elsewhere.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jun 13, 2019 10:10

There are not that many close neighbors that a one on one sharing of concerns couldn't take place. Those with young children or had a son murdered won't be HEARD in a community style meeting.  They need to have their emotions listened to; as well as the words.  Believe that this can move forward in a positive manner if this is accomplished with mutual respect and appreciation.  Looking forward to reading about a positive resolution. It is too important for it to turn out in any other way. It may be my or your 
co-worker/friend/neighbor in need of a hand up. It does happen. Good people make poor choices. All I have to do is look in  the mirror.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 13, 2019 08:14

Pam Walton,

I posed the question "Have any of you done your homework and gotten info from the other side of the fence?"  Thank your for filling me in on your homework.  I will agree with you that something is fishy.  I do agree that neighbors should have been notified.  I was coming across as attacking the neighbors and that was so wrong.

I point out my previous comment  "That people are so at fault to judge."  as you did...

PAM: "They weren't living next door while your little children slept in their beds. They weren't sitting on their deck watching as your little ones played ten feet away."

What does your comment mean?  What are you afraid of?



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 12, 2019 12:29

Same thing with short term rentals. Strangers coming into neighborhoods. Only difference is we don't know if they are criminals or not.

Posted by: Richard Harold Walton | Jun 12, 2019 10:54

I am responding in particular to the comment posted by Valerie Wass.  Apparently she hasn't read all that has been written and spoken about this subject.

Our homework has been ongoing and thorough, and we (neighbors and other concerned citizens) haven't any definitive answers from anyone. The city and state are working to discover what has gone on here. That is part of what is frightening. One thing is certain, Ms. Matlack, from Camden, was ahead of all of our officials by knowing she could circumvent the intended wording of the ordinance.

Ms. Matlack has avoided meeting with us to date as she and her representatives from the Restorative Justice Program want time to prepare themselves.  What we want is information and the truth - a sit-down gathering.  Anyone with integrity and knowledge can provide that without devising a plan. We have been waiting over a week. Tonight was to be the latest scheduled time, but we have not heard that she will follow through.

You and your husband accepting workers hardly compares to this proposal. If they didn't deliver, you would have complete control.  They weren't living next door while your little children slept in their beds. They weren't sitting on their deck watching as your little ones played ten feet away.

Each one of us has spoken in support of restorative justice.  That is not the issue!  It is that we have no information, and the people involved with the LLC, Ms. Matlack, and the RJ Program  don't know themselves how this is supposed to work.  Two of our neighbors have been to Belfast, and they couldn't get definitive answers from anyone. It's all been about high-minded ideals, like yours.

I looked into the programs in Belfast, and not one is conducted in a neighborhood home.  Each agency is in a public building. There is  a center, run by the sheriff, on 10 Public Safety Way.  It is designed to accommodate the men and their programs. For example, they have to earn their way out of a large dormitory situation into a smaller bunk room.

Our neighbors will be transient by the design of the plan.  We won't know who is coming and going. This whole effort is  shrouded in stealth.

There is no shame to be absorbed by any of us who are deservedly concerned.

Pamela Walton



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Jun 12, 2019 07:50

So sad.  That people are so at fault to judge.  To be afraid, well, of nothing.  My husband and I have hired inmates on the working program.  They were all extremely hard workers, always came to work on time and gave no one a hard time.  So, have these people judging gone to the Warden and sat down to talk about the rules, etc. when prisoners are released?  Have any of you done your homework and gotten info from the other side of the fence?  I bet you haven't and SHAME ON YOU ALL!!!!!

Posted by: Bruce Hodsdon | Jun 11, 2019 18:29

Amy, the home is for people who have served their prison sentence.  The prison prepares these men through a program inside the prison that screens and prepares them for their release. In addition most re-entry houses have an interview board to screen who would be at the home. There is much more to this than can be explained. Attend the community meeting for more details.

Posted by: Bill Packard | Jun 11, 2019 16:44

While I understand the concern, it's worth pointing out that people released from prison can live anywhere they want unless corrections places limitations.  Sounds like there are some use requirements that may not be met, but those have nothing to do with who lives in the house.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jun 11, 2019 16:41

The end of Bartlett Woods. Really !

Posted by: Kathy Westra | Jun 11, 2019 12:41

Rockland's codes appear once again to be all about a property owner finding a loophole so that they can slip a dubious project through by adhering to the letter of the law, rather than the spirit. Is notification REQUIRED? Maybe not (although it should be, in my opinion). Would it be neighborly, sensible, and prudent not to ambush neighbors with a "done deal" project has the potential to affect their lives? Absolutely! It is simply common sense for neighbors to be notified when there's a project like this that affects them, and potentially their sense of safety in their homes. Why is "Freedom Path LLC" equivalent to "an owner and his family" under the Rockland code? What IS Freedom Path LLC? Will they pay taxes? How will residents be selected? Who will be responsible for oversight of the facility, when the management is a business shielded by a LLC designation? As usual, lots of questions and no good answers.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jun 11, 2019 12:05

The secret is: It is how you know who you know and not just who you know that gets things done, right or wrong, in front of everyone or behind their backs.

Posted by: Dale Hayward | Jun 11, 2019 12:04

Rocklandia again, shows its ugly side. One councilor finds apathy, maybe another snort of that main street stuff will help pass the pain. One could care less, like the rest of them. Oh well, lets get the roads fixed.

Posted by: Amy Files | Jun 11, 2019 10:48

What is a "prisoner re-entry" home? I've never heard of this term... will the people living in the home still be actual prisoners? Or is this transitional living for people who have been released from prison?

Posted by: Jeff Sukeforth | Jun 11, 2019 08:41

Now right up front I will state I do not have a dog in this fight, but seems like this is the NIMBY mentality in great force. How about the mentioned sit down with the Commissioner before the dreaded show falls. I have to snicker though at the comment that Bartlett Woods would not survive with this entity in the neighborhood. So keep pushing for a meeting with the commish and let's see how many actually come out.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jun 11, 2019 04:02

There's the problem: "Erika Schneyer said she has never seen anything like this as there was no notification to neighbors." Made for a poor start.

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