A longtime volunteer at the Long Creek Youth Development Center, who had been touted as “an unsung hero” for his work, has been suspended from the South Portland detention facility after he inappropriately helped deliver a note from a male inmate there to a female inmate.

Dan Reardon, who is a staff member for U.S. Sen. Angus King and his adviser on juvenile detention reform, had volunteered at Long Creek and the former Maine Youth Center for 25 years and won high praise for his achievements helping to rehabilitate youthful offenders before his recent suspension.

Reardon confirmed on Monday that he had been suspended three or four weeks ago after he admitted to Long Creek Superintendent Jeff Merrill II that he had “made a mistake.” He said Long Creek is now reviewing his actions to decide whether to suspend him permanently or allow him to return to volunteering.

Merrill declined to comment Monday on Reardon or discuss details of his suspension.

Reardon was candid about what happened when reached by telephone Monday. He said he called Merrill last month and told him they needed to talk.

“I acknowledged that I had to come see him. I acknowledged that I had passed a note for a boy to a girl, which I knew was a violation of the rules and I apologized,” Reardon said. “I made a mistake. There is no question I did. I called to say, ‘Hey, I did this, and I shouldn’t have.’”

Reardon said he did not look to see what the note said.

His suspension comes at a difficult time for Long Creek as the staff there works to recover from a spike in violence at the facility earlier this year, including at least two serious assaults by inmates on guards.

It also comes at a time of uncertain direction in leadership within the Department of Corrections after the sudden departure of Commissioner Joseph Ponte last month and the appointment by Gov. Paul LePage of Associate Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick to take over as the acting head of the department.

Long Creek is one of only two juvenile detention facilities in the state, housing about 100 males and females between the ages of 14 and 21 at any given time. About a quarter of the juveniles are short-term, recently arrested detainees. The remainder have been committed there by court order. Reardon has been one of many registered volunteers at Long Creek, but one of few who committed so much time to the at-risk youths, especially in the evening and weekend hours when staffing is lighter.

Reardon said he devoted three evenings during the week and volunteered all day on Sundays.

For the past dozen years, he ran a program he founded there called the Blanket Project, a knitting activity even he is surprised has interested so many youths. Reardon said the program started when a former inmate asked him to supervise while the inmate used knitting tools, a hook and scissors, which inmates are not allowed to handle without adult oversight.

The knitting program has since flourished, with sometimes close to half of the committed inmates participating on Sundays. The inmates knit blankets for family members and have donated hundreds of blankets to area homeless shelters and other agencies for the needy.

“I really miss Long Creek, obviously,” said Reardon, who is also a former president of Bass Shoe Co.

Former Long Creek Superintendent Rod Bouffard had praised Reardon’s volunteer work, calling him “truly an unsung hero” in a statement to the Press Herald in 2011.

A fellow volunteer, Bill Linnell, said Reardon was “worth his weight in gold” as a volunteer and hopes Long Creek reverses the suspension.

“He’s somebody who has mentored, counseled and encouraged these kids. They are the forgotten kids,” Linnell said. “Largely he’s held the place together for 25 years on weekends because without something to do, the kids have problems.”

Reardon continues to work part time as a staffer on constituent services for King in senator’s Scarborough office. He helped run the Portland operation of King’s campaign for election to his first Senate term as an independent.

“Dan is Senator King’s longtime friend and trusted adviser on the reformation of the juvenile detention system. He has a long history of volunteering with Long Creek and is totally committed to the success of the institution,” said King’s spokeswoman, Kathleen Connery Dawe.

This story was updated at 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, April 8, to correct the spelling of Dan Reardon’s last name in the photo cutline.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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