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Bill To Close Long Creek Youth Prison Receives Preliminary Approval

Susan Sharon
Maine Public/file

Legislation that would close the Long Creek Youth Development Center in two years was approved Thursday evening by a vote of 81 to 57 in the House. But, the measure faces strong opposition, including from the Mills administration, and it will have to survive additional votes.

Long Creek currently has less than 30 kids, and costs taxpayers over $20 million a year. Supporters of the legislation argue that the time has come to stop incarcerating youth and move them to smaller, secure treatment facilities. Hallowell Democratic Rep. Charlotte Warren co-chairs the legislature's Criminal Justice Committee.

“That means $660,000 per year, per youth. Twenty-seven youth, 175 staff members," Warren says.

Supporters cited a study that shows half the resident of Long Creek do not have a home to go to if they are released and many have mental illness. Those who opposed the bill argued that the legislation is not needed because the Department of Corrections is already working on a plan that will gradually shift residents to smaller, community-based facilities. The bill faces further votes in the legislature.

“They have assured our Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that they are more than willing to modify as they go, but that does not include the closure of the Long Creek Youth Development Center prematurely,” says Dixfield Republican Rep. Richard Pickett.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.