Maine Youth Justice (MYJ), the ACLU of Maine, and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) are calling on Governor Mills to act with urgency to close Maine’s only youth prison. The call comes after revelations that guards at Long Creek used a dangerous restraint, known to create a risk of serious injury or death, on multiple occasions last month to subdue incarcerated young people. Last session, MYJ led the effort to pass LD 1668 — a bill to develop a plan to close Long Creek and divert resources to community-based services — in the state legislature, which the ACLU and GLAD supported. LD 1668 passed in both chambers of the legislature, but Governor Mills vetoed the bill.
“This is yet another example of why closing Long Creek is long overdue. No youth prison will keep Maine’s communities any safer, and Long Creek consistently exacerbates a cycle of extreme harm against our most vulnerable youth. There is no fixing it. There is no reforming it. We need to SHUT this facility DOWN. We urge Maine state legislators and the governor to take action to close Long Creek. One more day is too long to wait as kids in Long Creek continue to suffer physical and psychological trauma from the cruel realities of incarceration,” said Leyla Hashi, communications coordinator, Maine Youth Justice.
Alison Beyea, executive director, ACLU of Maine, issued this statement on September 10: “These revelations are the latest in a series of unconscionable acts of violence against young people detained at Long Creek. The entire project of incarcerating young people is violent, and it must end now. Children do not belong in prison. Governor Mills had the opportunity to close Long Creek earlier this year by signing LD 1668 into law. But she vetoed the bill, saying it didn’t account for public safety. We disagree. Long Creek’s continued operation degrades public safety. Incarceration traumatizes young people, especially LGBTQ youth and youth of color who are overrepresented at Long Creek. Public safety means no kids in prison. It means kids receiving the help and support they need, close to home, so that they can lead thriving lives. Despite her veto, Governor Mills has the power to close Long Creek. She should use it.”
GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto also spoke on the need to close Long Creek:“Reports issued to the State on conditions at Long Creek in 2017 and again in 2020 highlighted concerns regarding the use of restraints, absent or inconsistent staff training, and the failure of the adults to use de-escalation techniques and bring in mental health counselors rather than force. It was not long ago that the State settled an excessive force case brought by the ACLU of Maine on behalf of an 11-year-old who had his face slammed into a metal bed frame by correctional officers. These young people are entrusted to the care of the State of Maine. For any number of reasons, and despite good faith efforts by many involved, Long Creek is not working and not providing rehabilitation. The legislature agreed in the last session, as shown by the passage of LD 1668, which set out a years-long plan for closing Long Creek and justly transitioning workers employed there. These concerns remain, and the State needs to provide immediate oversight to end this brutal treatment now.”