The Good Will-Hinckley campus on U.S. Route 201 in Fairfield. The campus is one of 15 sites identified by the state Department of Corrections as possible locations for juvenile detention centers should lawmakers move to close or downsize the state’s only youth prison, Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

A building on the Good Will-Hinckley campus in Fairfield remains a leading option for a juvenile detention center should state lawmakers decide to dramatically revamp the way young people are detained and incarcerated in Maine.

The Alfond Family Cottage would be an “ideal” residential space and is currently vacant, according to a report by the state Department of Corrections that was submitted early this year to the Legislature’s committee on criminal justice and public safety.

The building is in good condition and undergoing improvements, but further renovations would be needed to enhance security, and such work would need to be approved by the Good Will-Hinckley board of directors, according to the report.

“There is still much research and consideration to be done on this topic,” the report said. “As we continue, we will look to stakeholders, including yourselves, for input to ensure the property is near needed services, feels home-like, is cost-efficient, and allows for racial, cultural and gender responsive care. We believe the process of seeking a community-based secure property to be fluid, and we look forward to continuing the search.”

The Alfond building is one of 15 locations under consideration in the state should lawmakers decide to close or minimize operations at the troubled Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland in favor of establishing a series of smaller, community-based detention centers. Each of them would hold anywhere from six to 12 youth, but the Alfond building could hold around 20, the report said.

These smaller centers would be like “therapeutic residences,” as opposed to ones with an institutional feel. Each location would need 20 to 30 staff and be near education, health care and other services. The Department of Corrections had proposed 18 locations but three were found not to be feasible. For instance, the former Gov. James B. Longley Elementary School in Lewiston was under consideration but it was later found that the school district already has plans for the site.


“This is a model that’s being followed across the country,” said state Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, co-chair of the Legislature’s committee on criminal justice and public safety. “It is more effective and less expensive. We spend $18 million a year to sustain Long Creek Youth Development Center.”

In addition to the Fairfield location, the report named five possible sites in Bangor and five in South Portland. Three of the locations in South Portland involve land adjacent to Long Creek while the other two are former middle schools.

There are also two locations in Augusta and one in Lewiston. The Augusta spots include vacant land on Arsenal Street on which a new center could be built, and the CETA building on Independence Drive which has been vacant for decades and was built as a dormitory for nurses. The Lewiston site is the former Martel Elementary School.

The final location under consideration is Biddeford District Court, which is expected to become vacant by February, according to the report.

State corrections officials, lawmakers and others were reluctant in recent weeks to discuss the latest details on the reform plan, which could speak to the politically sensitive nature of the effort to move young criminal offenders into community-based centers.

According to the proposal floated by Democratic lawmakers, and opposed by Republicans, the smaller centers would replace Long Creek, the state’s only youth prison and a target of broad criticism in recent years.


A report commissioned by the state last year from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy found that staff at Long Creek did not understand the use-of-force policy, incident reports had vague and misleading language, and personnel used harsh tactics on youth, including chemical agents like pepper spray. The use of chemical agents on minors, in particular, is widely condemned in correctional operations and could open the state to lawsuits for civil rights violations, the report said.

Although Long Creek operates a school, classes were infrequent because of teacher vacancies and staff calling out of work, leaving students alone for long stretches of time to complete packets of school work. One investigation found that a lack of staffing, mental health support and structured activities contributed to several episodes of unruly and destructive conduct.

The closest legislators have come to closing Long Creek was last year when a bill passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills. The bill would have required the Department of Corrections to draft a plan to close Long Creek by June 30, 2023, and would have invested its $18 million budget in the smaller, community-based centers.

At the time of her veto, Mills said the bill was “a simplistic solution to a complex problem” and legislators were unable to get the two-thirds majority to override the veto.

Compounding problems for state leaders was an announcement in June by the U.S. Department of Justice that Maine was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by over-institutionalizing disabled children. Justice officials found that Maine was “using Long Creek as a de facto children’s psychiatric facility.”

Leona Lee, assistant professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, has studied juvenile justice and said the effort to close Long Creek and move toward smaller, community-based residences is part of a broader national trend favoring a rehabilitation model for young offenders.


The prison system, Lee said, has two main models of thinking: punishment and rehabilitation. With punishment, the concept is that a person made a choice to commit a crime and should be punished for that choice. With rehabilitation, the idea is to take into consideration outside circumstances that may have contributed to a criminal act, such as poverty or mental illness.

The criminal justice model in the U.S. has historically been focused on punishment, even for juveniles. But that has begun to change, Lee said, especially as medical research has found that the part of the brain responsible for understanding consequences and impulse control is not fully developed until the mid 20s.

One benefit to having youth detention centers spread across a state, rather than one location, is that it would allow for more frequent visits by families of offenders, and studies have shown having that access to family can help in the rehabilitative process, she said.

A second benefit is that community-based centers are better settings for programs focused on rehabilitation, Lee said. And this is especially true for children who may have suffered abuse or trauma early in life, and who react fearfully to punitive actions in a prison setting.

But Lee cautioned that efforts to establish smaller detention centers can actually result in more children being sent to these centers. By creating more overall beds, it can result in a net-widening effect, Lee said. So a consequence of taking youth out of Long Creek, and into centers spread across the state, could be that more children are brought into the system, she said.

While the state report from earlier this year said opening a juvenile center at Good Will-Hinckley was a leading option, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of where reform efforts stand now.


Warren, the co-chair for the committee on criminal justice and public safety, said she believed the project at Good Will-Hinckley was moving forward and was the furthest along of all the possible locations.

State Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-York, the other chair for the committee, said that the Department of Corrections was evaluating the space at Good Will-Hinckley. She said architects had recently visited the building and were looking at what renovations would be needed for the space. Once that is done, she said the department would estimate the costs of renovations before taking the proposal to the governor’s office.

“Good Will-Hinckley offers the land, the environment and the people that work there already know how to work with kids,” Deschambault said.

The campus was first established in the late 1800s and covers hundreds of acres in Fairfield. It’s home to a charter school, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, and also the Glenn Stratton Learning Center, a museum and other programs.

State Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Albion, a member of the committee whose district includes the campus, said he thinks that opening a series of juvenile centers would be too expensive.

“First of all, I’m against Long Creek closing,” Cyrway said. “For one thing we already own Long Creek, it’s a nice facility, there’s no reason for (the residents) to be moved.”


An official with Good Will-Hinckley had previously said only that any youth detention center would not be operated by his organization. The nonprofit organization would lease space to the Department of Corrections.

When reached by phone, the chairman of Good Will-Hinckley’s board of directors, Ben Ward, declined to answer questions and referred them to the Department of Corrections.

Anna Black, director of government affairs for the Department of Corrections, did not give specifics on the status of opening a juvenile center in Fairfield.

“The department continues to work to prioritize community-based residences for juveniles as outlined in the enacted legislation,” Black said in an email. “As noted in the report on possible locations, we’re looking at a potential partnership with Good Will-Hinckley. The meetings with (Good Will-Hinckley) thus far have been oriented around us better understanding the options that may be available to the (Department of Corrections) for the benefit of justice-involved youth.”

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