Maine’s Department of Corrections has hired an official from Massachusetts to head its only youth prison, which has faced sustained scrutiny in recent years over its practices.

Lynne Allen Photo courtesy Maine Department of Corrections

A department spokesperson confirmed Friday that Lynne Allen will be the new superintendent of Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Allen will start on Jan. 31. Her salary will be $129,064.

“We’re thrilled to have her join the Maine DOC team,” spokeswoman Anna Black said in an email. “She’s a highly skilled and competent leader with 14 years in the youth serving field, coming to us from the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services. Ms. Allen shares the MDOC’s commitment to ensuring youth are served in the least restrictive environment appropriate for their individual case, while ensuring public safety.”

Allen succeeds Caroline Raymond, who resigned in September following a series of violent incidents involving guards and residents at Long Creek. Raymond led the prison for four years.

Allen joins the department less than two months after an independent report – the third review in four years – spotlighted dangerous conditions at the prison, and renewed calls to shut down the facility entirely.

The 29-page report from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy concluded that chronic staff shortages, crushing boredom for residents, and a lack of structured and consistent programming to engage them contributed to seven critical incidents last summer that caused more than $160,000 in damage.

The report also recommended major changes to how administrators at Long Creek care for its residents, including stopping the use of prone restraints, a practice in which young people are held face-down on the ground while staff members attempt to talk them down from crisis.

“Hopefully this report will provide additional ideas for further reforms that will make group disturbances a thing of the past at Long Creek,” the center’s analysts wrote. “The Department of Corrections can go a long way toward ensuring that by developing or agreeing to monitoring of these issues on a regular basis, with the results made available to the Legislature, the Executive Branch, and the public.”

Long Creek houses males and females under the age of 21 who have been convicted of felony crimes, often violent crimes. It also detains youths who have been charged with a serious crime but have yet to be sentenced. The population has evolved over the last several years to include more youths with mental health and substance use issues who often have nowhere else to go.

Scrutiny and public criticism of Long Creek ramped up following the 2016 suicide of a transgender boy. It was the first suicide at the facility in 30 years and became a flashpoint for advocates who say Long Creek’s model of centralized incarceration is a failure and a remnant of outdated thinking. Researchers say evidence shows that smaller, less restrictive home-like facilities allow youths to remain connected to their home communities, schools and families and are more effective at improving their lives and helping them become healthy, functional adults.

Lawmakers passed a bill last year that would have phased out the prison, but Gov. Janet Mills vetoed it and there were not enough votes to overturn that veto. Mills and Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty have said they believe Maine should have a detention facility of some kind for youths who might be a danger to themselves or others.


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