A Portland elementary school parent group is circulating a petition to pressure the Maine Department of Corrections to relocate a probation office that is next to the school because of concerns sex offenders will be in close proximity to students.

The Presumpscot Elementary School Family Council this week held a meeting and created the petition because of fears that sex offenders would be coming and going from the building, which is visible from the school playground.

The Maine Department of Corrections Adult Community Center, in the brick building at 125 Presumpscot St., is seen Wednesday in the background near the playground at Presumpscot Elementary School. The two properties share a fence line. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Department of Corrections probation office recently moved from Munjoy Hill to 125 Prescumpscot St. for additional office space and better parking. The same building houses other state offices, including a motor vehicle registry.

David Hopkinson, a treasurer for the Presumpscot Elementary School Family Council and father of two students, said parents are upset the school was not notified the probation office would be moved next door and that sex offenders would be in such close proximity to students. The location is not appropriate for sex offenders, he said, while making it clear the family council does not want to stigmatize people or deny them access to services.

“I can’t stress enough how much we want people to receive the treatment they deserve,” Hopkinson said. “It’s just the wrong location.”

Christopher Arbour, regional correctional administrator for the probation office, said this week that the probation office serves people who are required to periodically check in with probation officers, usually once every few weeks or less, depending on the terms of their probation. The severity of the crimes they committed varies, he said, while denying rumors that the office provides psychotherapy for sex offenders or serves as a halfway house.

On Friday night, the family council posted a Facebook update saying it had been told by Principal Angie Taylor that the Department of Corrections has made changes to who will receive services at the probation office.

Taylor, who confirmed she met with Department of Corrections officials to start to build a “collegial” conversation, said she could not confirm the information released by the family council and referred questions to the Department of Corrections.

Arbour, when reached after office hours Friday, said that he would not provide information about the situation until Monday morning.

Hopkinson said he and other parents also are upset by information provided to the Portland Press Herald this week by Arbour because they believe it contradicted information the parents received directly from employees at the probation office about the type of services provided and the number of people checking in with probation officers.

The family council decided to circulate the petition to put pressure on the Department of Corrections and also to inform city residents about the situation, Hopkinson said. Parents at the school found out about the new location for the probation office when the parent of an incoming kindergartner saw the sign and inquired about what took place in the building, he said.

The petition asks the Portland City Council, Board of Public Education and state legislators to call on the Department of Corrections to relocate the probation office “to a site that is not in close proximity to Presumpscot School.”

“We believe this is a citywide problem,” Hopkinson said. “This is a thing the city needs to deal with.”

 

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