We applaud the recent plan by Maine’s Department of Corrections to release a few incarcerated young people at Long Creek Youth Development Center, the state’s last youth prison to curb the spread of COVID-19.

However, we cannot forget the remaining 37 young people locked up there, who remain at extreme risk during this outbreak. Youth prisons, harmful under normal circumstances, are not equipped to protect young people during this public health crisis, as they commonly cage children in unsanitary, close quarters.

The MDOC must publicly provide a transition plan for the remaining youth and a plan that gives the young people immediate access to free housing, health care and basic resources once they are released.

The DOC is spending approximately $18 million to lock young people in cages and to traumatize them for the rest of their lives. We are calling for the immediate reinvestment of those funds into the community. Maine needs housing more than ever to halt the spread of COVID-19; closing Long Creek for good and turning the property into housing for those without is no longer a utopian idea.

It’s time for our Maine leaders to do the right thing and ensure the safety and health of our young people in this moment of crisis. History will remember us by how we treat our most vulnerable during this national emergency. We cannot let our young people down.

Al Cleveland

campaign manager, Maine Youth Justice


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