One year after a transgender teenager used a bedsheet and hanged himself at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, a group that advocates for LGBTQ rights has filed a Freedom of Access Act request for a report on conditions at the state-run correctional facility for juvenile offenders.

Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD, a nonprofit legal rights organization, filed the request Tuesday with the Maine Department of Corrections.

Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said Tuesday night that the report will be made public.

Patience Crozier, GLAD’s senior staff attorney, asked that it be allowed to inspect all public records that were compiled by the Center for Children’s Law and Policy during its review of Long Creek’s operations in September.

“The disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of conditions for youth, particularly LGBTQ youth, at Long Creek,” Crozier wrote in her request. “GLAD believes that it is critically important for the assessment completed by Mark Soler and his team to be released to the public at the earliest possible time.”

Soler is executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, which is based in Washington, D.C.

Crozier emphasized that GLAD’s request was not being made on behalf of the family of the transgender boy, Charles Maisie Knowles, 16, of Vassalboro. Knowles, whose birth name was Maisie but who went by Charles after he began to transition, took his own life in October 2016 while being housed in the girl’s unit at Long Creek. A probe of the suicide by the Maine Attorney General’s Office found that Knowles was not mistreated.

Though Knowles’ death raised awareness about how transgender youth had been treated at the facility, Crozier said GLAD wants to ensure that such an incident never happens again.

“That tragic suicide was really a wakeup call for all us as to what was happening at Long Creek,” Crozier said in a telephone interview.

She pointed out that there are a number of LGBT youths currently living at the South Portland facility.

Crozier applauded the Department of Corrections for allowing a team of auditors from across the country to conduct an assessment of Long Creek.

In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Fitzpatrick said the report will be made public as soon as Associate Commissioner of Corrections Colin O’Neill has the opportunity to meet with the auditors to address a few inaccuracies.

“As soon as that occurs, we will release the report,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t have a problem with the report being made public.”

Fitzpatrick said a state group called the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group contracted with a team of experts from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy to conduct the assessment. In September, the auditors spent several days gathering data at Long Creek.

According to its website, the Center for Children’s Law and Policy has worked in more than 40 states on juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health and education issues. It has litigated on behalf of children whose rights have been violated in juvenile justice and child welfare systems, the website says, and its mission is to eliminate any dangerous and inhumane practices for youth in custody.

Fitzpatrick said he strives to make his department as transparent as possible. He said a report such as the one developed by the center, even it it’s critical, helps him improve conditions.

“I’m not afraid of anything that critiques us,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have transgender policies and practices that are in place at Long Creek. We are trying to achieve a standard of care that is second to none.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: