Judge rules Governor does not have authority to close prison without legislative approval

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) A judge says Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage doesn't have the authority to shutter a minimum-security prison without first obtaining legislative approval.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy granted a temporary injunction sought by the attorney general, unions and the Washington County Commission. She concluded that only lawmakers, not the Department of Corrections, have the authority to close the Downeast Correctional Facility.

The ruling was signed Wednesday and made available Thursday.

The governor's administration removed inmates from the facility on Feb. 9 even though the facility was funded by lawmakers through the summer.

LePage contends the prison is too costly and inefficient to continue operating.

The prison costs about $5 million a year to operate and provides jobs and prison labor to the surrounding community.