As a longtime volunteer at Long Creek Youth Development Center and at its predecessor, the Maine Youth Center, I thought readers might like to hear my views on the continuing over-the-top criticism of the institution in the press.

First, I believe that most volunteers could not care less about the “bricks and mortar.” We simply want to be sure that whatever is done regarding the potential closure of the center is done for the good of the kids, as well as for the safety of the community.

The state has been committed for many years to reducing the number of incarcerated children in Maine. But it is obvious that there will always be a need for secure placement of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, and the decisions regarding selection of those kids will be more and more difficult. We volunteers simply hope that the conditions under which they are incarcerated in the future will continue to be as humane and caring as those that we observe at Long Creek at present – each and every day.

Second, I want to point out that the constant criticism of the facility implies that the staff and management of Long Creek are operating some kind of medieval torture chamber. Nothing could be further from the truth! The loving, caring attitude of these dedicated professionals is truly exceptional, as they try to help the kids to turn their lives around.

So, as we go forward with the debate and tough decisions about the future of the institution, please let us tone down the rhetoric and have confidence that the staff and management at Long Creek are trying mightily to infuse this jail with the caring compassion that all kids deserve.

James Willey Jr.


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