AUGUSTA – In the state of Maine there are minors under the age of 18 who have been arrested for being homeless and sent to Long Creek Youth Development Center.
To change that, members of a juvenile justice task force met in the statehouse Friday morning.
“We have a provision of state law that says if you are a homeless youth, we can send you to Long Creek. Currently, … 53 percent of the children that are incarcerated in our youth prison, are there because they don’t have any place to go,” Rep. Charlotte Warren, (D)-Hallowell said.
She said the South Portland facility can hold over 200 kids but it only has 50 there now.
Warren goes on to say the state spends over $250,000 per kid per year to keep them incarcerated.
“That is way more money than it would cost to actually provide them with the services that they need. Those are community-based services. They keep the children in their homes, in their communities where they should be and helps them with the problems that they have,” she also added.
Currently, the task force is fine-tuning a bill to reduce the population of Long Creek by 25 percent per year over the next four years.
“The bill takes out of statute the ability to incarcerate youth in Maine based simply on the fact that they have no other place to go. It creates benchmarks to reduce the population and eventually close Long Creek, that is the goal,” she said.
Lawmakers working on the bill are focusing on solutions to properly hold the other youths currently detained for other crime,s if Long Creek were to close.
She said the next step is public hearings and work sessions on the bill before sending it to the state legislature.