An investigation by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) into reports of use of force at Long Creek this summer has confirmed that youth were subjected to chokeholds and prone restraints, in violation of the youth prison’s policy.

The report outlines significant shortcomings including 

  • chronic staff shortages,
  • unclear policies about de-escalation and the use of force, and 
  • a deeply flawed response to disturbances at the youth prison — which permits the use of chemical agents like pepper spray and intervention by an outside tactical team. “These responses may or may not be appropriate in state prisons, but they are inappropriate, counterproductive, and dangerous in youth facilities,” the report authors write.

This is the third time CCLP has evaluated conditions at Long Creek, and its findings are consistent with the conclusions from its first report in 2017. 

Four years ago, CCLP found Long Creek is not designed to meet or manage the serious mental health needs of young people confined there.

Long Creek continues to be dangerously understaffed, and policies about de-escalation and the use of force remain unclear. In its most recent investigation, CCLP found that Long Creek still permits the use of so-called “therapeutic” prone restraints - even though the child welfare organization said the use of prone restraints needed to stop in its 2017 report. 

“Staff should not use the prone restraint, period, and MDOC policy should say so,” the CCLP investigators write in their most recent report. 

Finally, Long Creek continues to be unable to meet youths’ mental health needs: there are not enough mental health clinicians, and staff cannot adequately create or implement Intensive Behavioral Management Plans.

Long Creek is incarcerating 25 young people at a cost of almost $20 million annually.  

Earlier this year, formerly incarcerated young people, led by Maine Youth Justice, and their allies advocated for a bill to close Long Creek. The bill, LD 1668, passed in the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Mills.

The following statements can be attributed as noted:

Leyla Hashi, Communications Coordinator, Maine Youth Justice

“The latest report from the Center for Children's Law and Policy regarding the ongoing issues at Long Creek only proves what we already know: Long Creek remains a hotbed of negligence, failures and broken promises to youth.

“Implementing only minor changes to an inherently broken prison system won’t change the fact that young people are reportedly ‘treated like animals’ by the staff charged with their care.

“Ultimately, Maine’s children and teenagers belong in their homes and neighborhoods, with the mental health and social support they need to be healthy and happy individuals. Being locked in a cell and away from one’s family is deeply traumatic for youth. They deserve care and understanding as developing young people with futures beyond their mistakes.

“Maine Youth Justice will continue to fight for a future where Long Creek is shut down and all of Maine’s children are free from the devastating impact of incarceration.”

Michael Kebede, Policy Counsel, ACLU of Maine

“The findings released by CCLP aren’t surprising or new, but they are shameful. They add to the years of evidence about Long Creek’s failures and how it has harmed young people. Incarcerating young people is irredeemably violent, both for the young people who are confined and the adults who have to confine them. No amount of reform can fix something irredeemable. Long Creek needs to be closed.  

“We urge the Governor and the Legislature to listen to youth advocates – many of them survivors of Long Creek – and to face the mountains of evidence about Long Creek’s failures. It is long past time for the Governor and the Legislature to shut down Maine’s last youth prison and invest in the community-based services that young people need to be healthy and thriving.” 

Atlee Reilly, Legal Director, Disability Rights Maine

“CCLP’s most recent report documents, once again, that Maine continues to warehouse many youth with mental health needs at Long Creek due to a lack of appropriate mental health services in the community. Maine continues to ask Long Creek to do what it is not capable of doing. This has to end. Incarceration is not treatment.

“More institutions are not an appropriate response to a failed institution. Maine youth deserve individualized and robust community-based services to support them in their homes and communities.”

Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

“We’ve had years of news and consultant reports about Long Creek along with repeated, but unsuccessful efforts to reform it. It’s time to turn the page on Long Creek. The prison model simply doesn’t work for youth or our communities, and that’s why so many states have turned away from it. We can respond to inappropriate behavior in ways that both help young people become healthy and keep communities safe, as in other States and as outlined in past reports. Given the young people coming into the system with behaviors tied to genuine trauma and unmet mental health needs, our State should divert resources into needed care.”