AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Corrections is proposing closing some county jails to save money.

Lawmakers, corrections officials and others have long argued over how county jails should be funded and operated in the vast, rural state.

Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick’s January report proposed creating a new, quasi-independent jail commission with authority over jails in three regions. The department estimated closing five jails could save roughly $11 million.

But Independent Rep. Martin Grohman said greater savings could be achieved with employment, mental health and substance abuse programs in jails.

Federal justice statistics show Maine’s jail population grew from 1,113 inmates in 1999 to 1,750 inmates in 2013.

Fitzpatrick’s report found the average daily population of Maine’s 15 county jails was 1,675 last year. Expenditures and revenue each totaled about $86 million.