AUGUSTA – Young Mainers, with a group called “Maine Youth Justice”, rallied outside Augusta’s Capitol Judicial Center Tuesday calling for the closure of Long Creek Youth Development Center.
They want the money spent on the South Portland facility to instead go to community based programs, like rehabs and teen shelters.
“I’m out here because I know that $18.2 million in my community could help my friends get housing, it could help my friends get community centers in their town,” said Al Cleveland, a campaign manager for Maine Youth Justice.
The timing for the rally was no coincidence. Members of the state’s juvenile justice task force were on their way into the courthouse for a meeting.
The task force was created to try and reduce the number of incarcerated minors .
But Commissioner Randall Liberty of the Maine Department of Corrections said there is no plan to fully close Long Creek.
“Every state has some number of institutional confinement for youth for public safety. It is our goal to reduce those numbers though,” said Commissioner Liberty.
He said there are 46 people right now at Long Creek, and that’s down from 300.
But some who were held at Long Creek themselves, like Anthony Alfreds, said the facility doesn’t have the proper resources.
“My dad passed when I was in there,” said Alfreds. “And I‘m 17 years old, no risk at all as far as they were concerned. That’s why they brought me to the hospital. They wouldn’t uncuff my shackles so I could hug my dad before he died.”
The commissioner said in addition to reducing the population at Long Creek, the task force is recommending investing about $3.5 million dollars in community based services.
“If we spend those resources in a diversion sort of way and continue to invest in crisis housing, transitional housing , that’ll all make a big difference,” said Liberty.
And he said it’s been good to have Maine Youth Justice involved.
“They’re very well intended and informed and we’re glad to hear their voice.”