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Maine DOC, Medical Provider, Pay $250,000 Settlement Due to Excessive Force on 11-Year-Old

According to court records and reporting by The Bangor Daily News, Somali refugee Sadiya Ali arrived in the United States from Kenya, when her son, identified only as A.I., was 6 months old. Her primary language is Somali.

A.I. suffers from severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a brain disorder characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity. He also suffers from several other “serious mental disorders.”

Maine’s only state-run juvenile detention center, Long Creek Youth Development Center (Long Creek), has a troubled history. In October 2016, Charles Knowles, a 16-year-old mentally ill transgender boy, killed himself while on suicide watch. Staff promised his mother they would protect him but provided no mental health treatment.

In January 2017, the Maine Department of Corrections found that more than 80 percent of Long Creek detainees had been diagnosed with three or more mental health diagnoses and over 75 percent had received treatment. An independent December 2017 report of the Children’s Center for Law and Policy (CCLP Report) found that Long Creek was “not the right place for many of the youth in its care.”

Nevertheless, A.I. was confined at Long Creek on June 24, 2017, after being charged with two offenses. The 11-year-old was arrested when he became upset after being told he could not swim in the deep end of the local pool.

During a court hearing two days later, A.I’s mother and several community members requested his release to his mother’s custody. Yet the court agreed with the prosecutor that A.I. presented a “risk of harm” and ordered his continued Long Creek detention.

The juvenile court later found that A.I. was not competent to stand trial and would not become competent in the foreseeable future. The criminal charges were then dismissed. A judge approved A.I.’s release on July 20, 2017 but he was not released until August 2, 2017, after being seriously injured on July 26, 2017.

Long Creek officials knew of A.I’s serious mental health disabilities but violated policy by failing to prescribe ADHD medication, the report found. A.I. exhibited clear and escalating ADHD symptoms throughout the month before being injured. Yet Long Creek staff never provided medication or other treatment. Rather, he was repeatedly punished with room confinement and other deprivations that aggravated his symptoms.

The CCLP Report found “an overuse of room confinement” which could “worsen” the problems of “youth with mental health problems.” This also deprived youth of “legally required services, such as educational services and recreation,” the report found.

After numerous daily behavioral issues resulting from A.I.’s worsening ADHD symptoms, eight days before A.I. was injured, a nurse practitioner wrote in his medical records that he “certainly would benefit from ADHD medication. He remains impulsive, short fused, and inattentive.” Yet, she did not prescribe ADHD medication or any other treatment.

Six days before the incident, A.I. was injured during a July 20, 2017 altercation. A nurse observed “ineffective impulse control.” He was again punished but not treated.

Three days before the incident, A.I. was again injured during an “altercation in unit.” A nurse again observed “ineffective impulse control.” Instead of treating him, he was punished.

One day before the incident, a nurse refused to examine A.I.’s ear complaint. She claimed he was “unwilling to sit” for the exam. He was again punished rather than treated.

At breakfast on July 26, 2017, A.I. was told he was not allowed to attend a picnic later that day. He tossed his tray on the floor and was locked in his cell alone, without a toilet as punishment.

When A.I. needed to use the bathroom, he repeatedly rang his room buzzer to no avail, so he started banging on the door. Three staff responded, telling him that he was not allowed to use the bathroom.

A.I. said he would trigger the sprinkler system if they did not let him use the bathroom.

Staff threatened to remove everything from his room if he did not leave the sprinkler alone.

Although A.I. did not activate the sprinklers or pose a physical threat to himself or others, guards Michael Mullin and Daniel Ferrante entered his room. They removed A.I.’s pillow and mattress, leaving the bare metal bed frame exposed.

They then forcibly removed A.I.’s shoes after he threatened to use them to trigger the sprinkler. As the guards were leaving his room, A.I. spit near them. The CCLP report found that there was “no question” that A.I.’s “disruptive behavior was closely related to his mental health problems.”

Nevertheless, Mullin and Ferrante re-entered A.I.’s room and forcefully restrained the 120-pound detainee from behind. During the struggle, the guards bashed A.l’s face into the metal bed frame, knocking out one front tooth and breaking another off at the gum line, causing him to bleed profusely and cry in severe pain.

Guards continued to restrain A.I. and attempted to put a spit mask on his bloody face. The CCLP report found that the guards clearly used excessive force against A.I.

Only one of A.I.’s teeth could be found. That tooth could have been saved if A.I. had received emergency dental care. He did not see a dentist for six days, however, so the tooth could not be saved.

A.I.’s mother was not informed of his injuries. When she saw them during a visit two days later, staff lied to her, claiming that he tripped and fell.

On March 14, 2018, the ACLU of Maine brought a federal excessive force and deliberate indifference suit against Long Creek staff and CorrectCare Solutions, LLC, on behalf of A.I. and his mother. The parties agreed to settle the suit on October 28, 2019. Terms were reached December 9.

A.I’s detention has sparked public debate about Maine’s juvenile justice system. Some have suggested closing Long Creek and replacing it with residential treatment facilities. See: Ali v. Long Creek Youth Dev. Ctr., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10543. 

 

Related legal case

Ali v. Long Creek Youth Dev. Ctr.