A lawsuit filed by a former inmate at Maine’s juvenile correctional facility alleges he was subjected to abusive practices including long periods of unwarranted isolation and excessive use of restraints when he was incarcerated in the 1990s.

An attorney for the plaintiff said his client suffers from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems that stem from a pattern of inmate abuse that stretches back decades.

The plaintiff in the case is Matthew Keene, a 36-year-old Standish resident who was incarcerated at the Maine Youth Center from 1995 to 1999, beginning when he was 13 years old, according to the complaint filed Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court. The facility is now called the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

The attorney, Peter Clifford of Clifford & Clifford LLC in Kennebunk, contacted the Portland Press Herald via email about Keene’s case on Friday afternoon after reading a Press Herald article about a review of the facility that concluded it is understaffed and ill-equipped to handle youths’ serious mental health needs.

The independent review of Long Creek’s practices followed the suicide of 16-year-old inmate Charles Maisie Knowles on Nov. 1, 2016, and subsequent allegations by his mother, Michelle Knowles, that Long Creek’s staff had failed to provide proper mental health counseling to her transgender son, who had a history of depression. He was being held there on felony arson charges.

Keene’s lawsuit alleges that Department of Corrections staff members routinely placed him in isolation for long periods and used restraints on him without proper cause, despite the fact that Keene already had been diagnosed with “PTSD, depression, and anxiety, among other serious conditions,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Maine Youth Center’s staff denied Keene the right to mental health treatment and consistently punished him instead of providing rehabilitative services, which exacerbated his mental illness.

“My client has been under a severe disability caused by the abuse that he suffered,” Clifford said.

The lawsuit names a total of 30 defendants, including the Department of Corrections and several current and former staff members. Ten defendants are listed only by their last names, accompanied by the words “first name unknown.”

“Some are responsible for enacting these policies,” Clifford said. “Other people were just guards and other officials who just abused their authority, and did it brutally and sadistically.”

Corrections Deputy Commissioner Jody Breton did not respond to a voice mail left on her office phone Friday after regular business hours. The department has not yet filed its response to the complaint in court.

Clifford said he was not at liberty to say why his client was incarcerated in 1995 because he did not know if Keene’s juvenile criminal record had been sealed. The complaint says that Keene was transferred to an adult correctional facility when he turned 18, but Clifford said he did not know how many years his client remained in prison.

Clifford also did not explain directly why his client waited until 2017 to file a lawsuit about allegations of abuse in the 1990s, saying only that for years Keene had believed that the staff at the facility had a legal right to mistreat him. Clifford added that because Keene has been diagnosed with a mental disability, he is not subject to any statute of limitations on filing the complaint.

Clifford said Keene’s life has been devastated by the abuse he suffered in the Maine Youth Center.

“He has severe PTSD,” Clifford said. “He’s unable to work. He’s unable to really function. He’s somebody who was severely tortured as a child.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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