National group to find out if Maine's youth prison implemented prior recommendations

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Sep. 24—The head of a national policy group on Friday outlined the scope of his review of violent incidents at the state's only youth prison. The state is...
Sep. 24—The head of a national policy group on Friday outlined the scope of his review of violent incidents at the state's only youth prison.

The state is investigating six altercations in six weeks between incarcerated youths and staff at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, and the local district attorney's office is evaluating the actions of at least two corrections officers there for possible criminal charges. The legislative committee that oversees the Maine Department of Corrections convened a hearing Friday to question top officials and experts about what happened.

Among them was Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children's Law and Policy, the group hired by the department to look into those incidents and overall operations at Long Creek. Soler said he and others will visit the facility in October to interview staff and youth, in addition to reviewing internal reports and security videos.

"What we want to know is: What's going on at Long Creek that has made it possible for these incidents to occur?" Soler said. "And what needs to be done now to ensure that they don't continue?"

The same group has conducted two prior assessments of Maine's juvenile justice system, one published in 2017 and another in 2020. Soler said he will look back at the dozens of recommendations in those reports as part of this latest review.

"If there were changes recommended in the 2017 and 2020 reports that were not implemented, how might that lack of implementation relate to the occurrence of these disturbances?" Soler said. "Were there things that could have been changed, should have been changed, that were not changed, that contribute to these incidents?"

The independent review is one of the steps Corrections Commissioner Randy Liberty promised in response to the altercations. He also appeared before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Friday to answer questions and provide updates on reforms based on those earlier…
Megan Gray, Portland Press Herald, Maine
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