Maine’s Department of Corrections has released 43 percent of the youths it had detained before COVID-19 struck. Now, a collaborative effort is underway to support the kids being returned early to their communities.
Erica King leads “Place Matters,” a project at the University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Center, which is joining in the collaboration. She says it will create “care teams” to provide the youths with support.
“Supports like housing, supports like mentorship, even financial literacy. Basic things, how to drive a car, sometimes. Things that we take for granted,” she says.
King says the collaborators hope to create permanent programs that can serve as alternatives to incarceration for youths who run afoul of the law.
“My hope is, and I think the hope of others who are involved in co-designing it, is that these groups will be able to facilitate shared accountability to the health, safety and well-being of system-involved youths who are transitioning to adulthood. So that all of the youths and the communities that they’re returning to, are thriving,” she says.
King says some of the young people themselves will be involved, and the collaboration will include outreach to the public.
In addition to the “Place Matters” project, the collaborative involves the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law at the University of Maine School of Law, and the state Department of Corrections.