SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — More than two weeks ago, a teenager took their own life while in state custody. It happened at Long Creek Youth Development Center on Oct. 29.
"We've heard that, even though this young person identified as male, was being house with the female unit," ACLU of Maine Legal Director Zachary Heiden said. "We've also heard that this young person, even though he was on suicide watch, was able to commit suicide."
The letter asks that the investigation includes someone with a strong knowledge of the LGBTQ community and the added struggles its members face. It also asks that the investigation looks into the general mental health care and treatment of youth in correctional facilities.
"This, to our knowledge, is the first time a young person had died in state custody," Heiden said.
According to the state, LGBTQ teens face frequent victimization, including bullying, harassment and violence, at four times the rate of their non-gay peers. They're also between 1.5 and 7 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
"It's shocking and disturbing the disproportionate burden that LGBTQ youth experience in our criminal justice system," Heiden said. "They're brought into the criminal justice system in greater numbers, and they have a much harder time being safe in prison and jail facilities."
The attorney general's office had no comment Monday. A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Corrections said that the commissioner could not talk about an ongoing investigation.
The Corrections Department has an 8-page policy outlining how to manage transgender residents, including housing, bathing schedules and searches.
Generally, if a person has not undergone reassignment surgery, they are housed by their gender assigned at birth. The rules do say, however, to treat each case individually.
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