All children make mistakes, and they need support like violence interruption programs, school counselors, health care, quality education, and more – not incarceration. LD 1779 would divest tax dollars from youth incarceration and invest that money into giving currently incarcerated children the support and resources they need to thrive and grow into healthy adults.

Putting kids behind bars is a failed model that does not help young people thrive and become contributing members of society. Community-based treatment programs closer to home are the best option for struggling children and their communities.

The Problem:

The state is incarcerating children because it is failing to provide health care: In July 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter finding the State of Maine is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by unnecessarily segregating children with mental health diagnoses and/or developmental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment facilities, and at Long Creek Youth Development Center. A prison should never be used as an alternative to a health care facility.

Long Creek is wasting money that could be used to support Maine's children: This youth prison uses more than 150 staff and costs the state over $12 million per year to house a handful of young people. These funds and staff hours could be used to give Maine's children the support and resources they need to succeed and grow into healthy adults.

Youth incarceration is exacerbating disparities: Black and African American people make up roughly 1.6% of Maine's population, yet 23% of the children detained at Long Creek identify as Black or African American, according to a 2020 report. LGBTQ children and children with disabilities are also overrepresented at Long Creek, and are more likely to suffer violence and abuse than their peers.

Most detained children are not even considered public safety risks: According to a 2020 report, 53% of children are detained so the state can "provide care," not because the state considers them a threat to others' safety. 72.7% of children detained for over 30 days were awaiting placement elsewhere. The state is incarcerating Maine's young people because it is failing to provide essential services, not because state officials believe this is improving public safety.

The Solution and LD 1779:

Every child deserves access to safe and clean housing, quality public education, accessible and practical transportation, convenient and affordable groceries, first-rate healthcare, quality childcare, and – most importantly equitable access to joy. We all know these are the true and undeniable hallmarks of a safe and thriving community, not putting kids behind bars.

LD 1779 would move us toward ending youth incarceration at Long Creek by:

  • directing the Department of Corrections (DOC) to assess the needs of each child so the state may know the exact services each child needs.
  • require DOC and the Children's Cabinet to develop recommendations for how to reinvest the $12 million currently spent on Long Creek into a continuum of care, including community-based alternatives to incarceration.
  • require lawmakers to study and select an entity to manage funds divested from Long Creek.
  • implement a workforce development plan for all current Long Creek employees so no person at Long Creek is left behind.
  • require redevelopment of Long Creek into a community center with supportive housing.

Bill Movement:

This bill originated in 2023 during the First Regular Session of the 131st Legislature. It was not passed in 2023 and was carried over into 2024 to be considered during the Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature.

  1. Bill printed: 4/25/2023
  2. Referred to Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety: 4/25/2023
  3. Public hearing in committee: 5/2/2023
  4. Carried over from 2023 to 2024: 7/25/2023
  5. Work session and vote in committee: 2/14/2024 (DIVIDED REPORT)
    • Ought not to pass: 8
    • Ought to pass as amended: 4
  6. House vote: (PASSED)
    • Yes: 75

    • No: 70

    • Absent: 6

    • Excused: 0

  7. Senate vote: N/A
  8. Action by governor: N/A


Representative Grayson B. Lookner


The Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature

Bill number



ACLU of Maine Policy Counsel Michael Kebede delivered testimony to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety during a public hearing on May 2, 2023, during the First Regular Session of the 131st Legislature.