Attorney General Must Consider Special Circumstances because of Incarcerated LGBT Youth Suicide, Say Groups
PORTLAND, Maine—The ACLU of Maine and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) wrote to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills urging special consideration be taken in her investigation into the death of a transgender youth by suicide at Long Creek Youth Development Center sometime in late October or early November. Long Creek is located in South Portland, Maine.
“Not only is it critical to understand what happened with this young person, but this death raises urgent, substantial concerns about the conditions, policies, patterns and practices at Long Creek and the health, safety and well-being of transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth,” write the groups.
While the details of the death have not been made public, the ACLU and GLAD have confirmed with multiple sources that the transgender boy was being housed in the girls unit, and was on suicide watch when the incident happened.
The letter outlines prevailing national standards regarding the mental health of incarcerated youth generally and transgender youth specifically, and offers resources to insure a proper and thorough investigation.
The letter calls on the attorney general to appoint investigators who have specialized knowledge of LGBT issues. Because of misconceptions, stereotypes and prejudice, transgender people face increased specific while incarcerated.
“Transgender youth face a gauntlet of hostility from their peers and are often rejected by their own families because of who they are,” said Polly Crozier, senior staff attorney at GLAD. “The teen years are hard for everyone, but coupled with the pain of rejection and the stigma of incarceration, they can be unbearably painful for transgender youth.”
The letter further urges the investigators to consult with nationally recognized experts in best practices and standards of care for all incarcerated youth. According to the letter, many of the young people at Long Creek suffer from mental illness, have histories of trauma and abuse, and have experience with addiction – either their own or that of family members.
“Most children who are locked up in correctional facilities have experienced some sort of trauma, abuse or mental illness in their young lives. The Constitution and human decency require us to make sure they have adequate mental health care while they are in the custody of the state,” said Jamesa Drake, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine. “Tragedies like this one raise doubts about whether Long Creek and other youth detention facilities are equipped to provide that care.”