Recent reports have shown what many of us have known for decades: Youth are enduring violence and atrocities at Long Creek Youth Development Center. The report speaks about the usage of prone restraint on youths and how long they were subjected to these heinous acts. It depicts once again how dangerous Long Creek is for Maine’s children. For over a century, this youth prison has caused harm, injury, displacement, trauma and, in some incidents, death.

Earlier this month, we at Maine Youth Justice received the painful news that the staff of Long Creek physically assaulted six youths. The six incidents in the report from Disability Rights Maine to the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, Randy Liberty, states that Long Creek staff had held youth in prone restraint positions, some up to 20 minutes. Prone restraints can cause extreme injury and sometimes lead to death, as reported in the Disability Rights Maine footnote.

This is nothing new. Previous reports have shown us that nothing can change this.

When a 16-year-old transgender boy, Charles Maisie Knowles, hanged himself in his cell while on suicide watch in October 2016, then-Gov. Paul LePage dismissed it. A recently released youth named Dom stated, “That is a normal day for me at Long Creek,” when responding to the recent reports.

Rossana, as a mother of two children who have experienced the abuse and neglect in Long Creek, knows firsthand the damage that this harmful system inflicts on children. Those traumatic experiences directly resulted in the suicide of her child. Long Creek has blood on its hands.

How much longer can we put our youth through this? When is it enough?


So what does the Department of Corrections do at a time like this? They scramble to fire employees, change leadership and try to rebrand the facility like it’s a simple, fixable situation. It isn’t. The acts of torturing, abusing and neglecting our youth are not repairable. Years of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder aren’t fixable. These atrocities have gone too far for too long.

We know from previous reports that the department has tried to do this multiple times. They fire a few employees, change leadership, hire the same outside company to investigate and make it seem as if there are ways to correct the mistakes. No changes will ever diminish what this building stands for. The narrative that is currently being projected is the truth. Our youth are being abused and neglected in prisons like Long Creek. Youth incarceration leads to homelessness, lack of employment and mental health issues. Just in Maine alone, African American youth are four times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated. Why do we continue to subject youth to such trauma and pain?

Let us tell you the mistakes that cannot be corrected: death.

We need to remember the names of the youths who’ve lost their lives because of the ongoing effects of incarceration, neglect and abuse at Long Creek.

When L.D. 1668, legislation to develop a plan to close Long Creek and divert resources to community-based services, was put on Gov. Mills’ desk, our governor decided to veto the bill. We have asked numerous times for the Department of Corrections, the Maine Legislature and the governor to create a plan to close Long Creek and fund community-based programs.

We are here, at the front lines, again stating the same points as before. Close Long Creek and fund new ways for communities to heal and find healthy futures for youth instead of the typical results of being traumatized, harmed, injured or end up losing their life.

Long Creek was never a solution. Long Creek is the problem.

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