The Department of Corrections operates juvenile justice facilities in the state of Maine. Due to shrinking community-based resources for youth with mental health in the state, many youth are inappropriately incarcerated in juvenile justice facilities — facilities that are not equipped to deal with their treatment needs.
In 2018, the Maine Supreme Court heard from a youth suing the DOC and challenging the state’s jailing of youth at Long Creek Detention Center. J.R. was 15 years old when he was sent to Long Creek. His lawsuit alleges that he was only sent there because the state had nowhere else to send him.
Even Maine Chief Justice Leigh Saufley stated that “the continuum of care … for juveniles … goes from nothing that is particularly restrictive, to incarceration.” While incarcerated, youth are not receiving adequate mental health treatment. “I want to be clear, Long Creek is not a treatment facility. These kids are in lockdown. It changes who they are, it changes who they think they are. Have we not failed our kids?”
In October 2016, a 16-year-old transgender boy killed himself at Maine’s Long Creek Juvenile Facility. Advocates have called for the closure of Long Creek, and policy researchers have looked more deeply into the ways in which mentally ill children, who make up a large portion of Long Creek’s population, are not well-served there. An independent review of Long Creek by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy found serious concerns at the facility.