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$600,000 Settlement for Abuse at Maine Juvenile Prison

In 2004 the state of Maine paid $600,000 to settle with a former prisoner at the Long Creek Youth Development Center (LCYDC), a juvenile prison.

In his lawsuit, filed in 2001, plaintiff Michael Taylor alleged he was placed in solitary confinement for more than a month at a time and tied down for up to 47 hours during five separate periods of imprisonment at LCYDC in the 1990s.

The lawsuit spawned two state investigations and led to the reassignment of Superintendent Lars Olsen and senior psychologist Barbara Heath, both of whom had signed off on Taylor's treatment. The duo have no direct contact with juveniles in their new jobs.

Since reports of abuse first surfaced in the mid-1990s, the state has built two new juvenile prisons to replace LCYDC, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Denise Lord. The emphasis is now on rehabilitation and treatment, she said, and the use of isolation and restraints has been curtailed.

Still at issue is whether juvenile prisoners have a legal right to treatment. Taylor's lawyers say they do; the state says they don't. Rehabilitation is a goal of the DOC, wrote Assistant Attorney General Diane Sleek, but imprisoned children do not have a right to rehabilitative services.

Mark Soler, an attorney with the Youth Law Center in Washington, D.C., said Maine's position is similar to that of other states. Its not unusual, he said. It doesn't mean it's correct, but its not unusual. Superior Court Judge Thomas Humphrey had planned to decide the issue, but the lawsuit was settled before he issued a ruling.

Lawsuits like Taylor's do more than compensate the individual victims of institutional abuse. They have also been effective in driving reform in juvenile prisons, and tend to widely impact conditions for prisoners who are not directly involved, said Soler. See: Michael T. v. Magnusson, Cumberland Co. Superior Ct., Case No. CV-01343.

Sources: Portland Press Herald, Associated Press

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Related legal case

Michael T. v. Magnusson