Bill To Close Youth Detention Center Is On Governor's Desk

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature has voted to close the state's only youth detention center, but the governor hasn't said whether she'll sign the bill.

The proposal would direct the Maine Department of Corrections to make a plan to close the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland by 2023. The facility's $18.6 million in annual funding would be redirected elsewhere.

The Maine Department of Corrections is opposed to the bill, saying it doesn’t take a “balanced approach to ensuring rehabilitation and public safety.”

But Rep. Grayson Lookner, who sponsored the bill, said the goals of public safety and rehabilitation can both be achieved.

“It’s moving us in the direction of having a restorative criminal justice system and not just punitive in nature,” said Lookner, D-Portland.

In testimony to a legislative committee, Maine corrections officials said they plan to close Long Creek at some point, but not in the immediate future.

The bill was sent to the desk of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills after the Senate gave final approval on a 19-15 vote on Monday. A veto could present an additional obstacle to those who want to close the facility.