The Maine Department of Corrections says it will relocate counseling services currently being provided to sex offenders at a new probation office near Presumpscot Elementary School, taking the step after parents of students raised concerns about the office’s proximity to the school.

The Maine Department of Corrections Adult Community Center, in the brick building at 125 Presumpscot St., is seen in the background near the playground at Presumpscot Elementary School. The center’s recent move raised criticism from the school community, particularly regarding sex offenders. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“We’ve had a long-term relationship with our treatment providers,” said Susan Gagnon, director of Adult Community Corrections for the Maine Department of Corrections. “We just felt it was time based on the needs of this office, as well as we do want to be good neighbors. We felt it was a good opportunity.”

The group counseling and psychotherapy services are provided by the Counseling and Psychotherapy Center Inc. and will move to an off-site location by the end of September, Gagnon said.

She said the move follows a meeting department officials had with staff at Presumpscot Elementary School, which shares a boundary with a new probation office the department opened at 125 Presumpscot St. this month.

The office previously had been located on Washington Avenue, and relocating it next to the school drew questions and criticism from parents and others in the school community, particularly in regard to sex offenders.

Those concerns also prompted the Presumpscot Elementary School Family Council last week to start a petition calling on state and city leaders to move the office. That petition has been put on hold amid confusion over the function of the office and the number and types of people it serves.


In a Facebook post Tuesday, the council said contradictory information the Department of Corrections gave to the community and the media contributed to the confusion.

“Many in our community are frustrated, scared, confused, and feeling like our community is considered not important enough to be treated with the respect and dignity it and all schools deserve,” the post said.

Last week, Chris Arbour, regional correctional administrator for the Department of Corrections, said that about 200 Portland residents are served at the new office.

He clarified that figure on Tuesday, saying that about 200 people are served each week, but there are currently about 380 people in total receiving services at the office. About 60 of those are sex offenders, he said. Clients typically have to check in once or twice per month at the office, depending on their needs and risks of re-offending.

The probation office moved Aug. 1 to secure additional office space and better parking. It is one of four leased adult probation spaces in the Department of Corrections’ Region 1, which includes Cumberland and York counties. The region serves about 1,600 people in all depending on the number of people on probation.

Arbour also had said last week that the office does not provide psychotherapy for sex offenders but did not mention the third party group that provides counseling.


Members of the family council have stressed that they want to see clients of the probation office continue to receive the services they need, but they are concerned about the office’s location and proximity to the school.

Keven Littlejohn, a registered sex offender who has been receiving services at the new office, agrees with parents that the office should not be so close to the school, which shares a boundary with the back side of the probation office.

Littlejohn has convictions for possession of child pornography and attempted possession of child pornography, according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry.

“It’s like an alcoholic walking down a street with bars all over the place having it right there at that location,” he said. “When you’re coming out of these therapy sessions, sometimes it can be intense. I’m not worried about any of the people in the group. We all support each other, but if you have somebody new who hasn’t quite adapted yet, it puts a lot of pressure on them and it doesn’t look right legally.”

The probation office also is in the same complex as a specialized pre-school program, the Southern Maine Children’s Academy, whose playground is across the parking lot from the entrance to the office.

Jacki Billington, owner of the academy, said her concerns have been minimal because of what she said are higher staffing levels in her program than at the elementary school.


“Since they’ve been there, nothing has raised my concerns,” Billington said. “I’ve been aware of it and have had my eye out for any concerns. There have been no concerns from my staff or myself since they’ve gone in.”

In addition to relocating the group counseling and psychotherapy services, Arbour said the office also has other safety and security measures planned, including cameras on the outside of the building, after-hours surveillance checks and fencing between the office and elementary school.

“I get that people are emotional,” Arbour said. “I completely understand, but it’s everywhere around us. You go into stores, out on the street, folks, and the people we deal with have criminal convictions.”

Littlejohn, the registered sex offender, says the office also could improve by moving all sex offenders to a new location to do check-ins with probation officers, although he personally does not have to check-in at the office because his case is under federal jurisdiction.

Gagnon, with the Department of Corrections, said that’s not something the department has discussed.

“My question is where do you draw the line in regards to offenders?” she said. “If you have domestic violence offenders, do you have them check in elsewhere? What about residential burglars? We haven’t really talked about it, but I’m trying to visualize what that would look like.”


In their Facebook post Tuesday, the family council expressed concern about a general lack of communication from the corrections department about the probation office moving next to the school.

“Two weeks ago we found out by accident that a Department of Corrections Facility had moved at the beginning of August directly behind and abutting our school and playground, literally within a stone’s throw,” the post said. “Our community was not informed, no plans were made. Our community found out because one parent happened to see there was a new tenant and they, along with other parents began to ask questions at the new facility.”

Presumpscot Elementary School Principal Angela Taylor has met with the department since the family council raised its concerns, and the council also wrote that since Friday “our community has had robust and thoughtful discussions, which include numerous social workers and medical professionals as well as parents who have family members in the probation process.”

Taylor, who is taking over as a new principal this year, said she didn’t have information on what, if any, communication had come from the DOC before the probation office moving.

“We are working with the DOC to ensure the safety of students at Presumpscot and are continuing to build a relationship with them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gagnon acknowledged that the department did not communicate in advance about the probation office relocating. She said it’s not something that is typically done, regardless of where probation offices are and who their neighbors are.


Leases for probation offices are generally procured through a state leasing office that also negotiates contracts for other types of state office buildings, she said.

“We look at it as we’re a business,” she said. “In any community, there’s going to be somebody who may have an issue with us, and that would make it very difficult to be able to locate any state office.”

She said the department will continue to meet with the school and respond to concerns, but overall there is nothing that prohibits the office from being located where it is.

The new office also joins a juvenile probation office located in the same complex that has been in operation for about three years.

“It just goes to show we are good neighbors and we have had very few incidents,” Gagnon said.

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