Two people were taken hostage Monday afternoon by an inmate with a knife at the Maine State Prison, state officials said.

The hostages were described by Associate Corrections Department Commissioner Denise Lord as an inmate and a staff member. No names were immediately released.

Corrections Department personnel and Maine state police responded after the incident began around 2:30 p.m. and negotiators were on the scene. Officials said the incident was confined to the inside of the prison.

"This is a serious situation," Lord said in a statement. "Our first priority is to protect the lives of the people involved. We will do everything in our power to make sure no one is hurt."

Emergency family contacts for the hostages were notified and the prison, in a town 58 miles northeast of Portland, was secured, officials said.

Gubernatorial spokesman David Farmer said a negotiating team had made "limited contact" with the prisoner.

Officials said Gov. John Baldacci had been briefed about the incident.

"I have spoken with Commissioner Marty Magnusson and have great confidence in the Department of Corrections and the state police," Baldacci said in a statement. "Everyone is working for a peaceful outcome to this incident."

Lord said Magnusson was at the prison.

According to the Corrections Department, the Maine State Prison has close, medium and special management custody levels with a population capacity of 916 and 410 staff.