Corrections Commissioner: Long Creek death has sparked internal review

Maine Commish. of Corrections speaks about teen death.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick released a statement to media, calling Charles Knowles' death a tragedy, but reiterating that he cannot speak about an ongoing investigation.

Fitzpatrick also took the media to task for its coverage of the death, saying it hasn't been accurate; has portrayed Long Creek's workers in a poor light.

Fitzpatrick sent a statement to the Portland Press Herald yesterday and said that editors there had refused to publish it. In a follow up email to NEWS CENTER, he wrote: "Instead the newspaper editors decided to have a reporter call me indicating he had follow up questions regarding the op-ed and proceeded to print their own biased article."

On Wednesday, the commissioner spoke on camera to NEWS CENTER, not about the case itself, but about the work done at Long Creek, and what this death may do to change the state's entire corrections system.

"Our heart goes out to the family and that's critical to know that everyone feels that but the staff here they come in and they work so hard every day, and a loss like this - which has not happened in Long Creek before, we've never lost a resident at Long Creek - so for all of us this is a new experience and a devastating experience." Commissioner Fitzpatrick wanted to be clear, his staff works hard to protect each child in Long Creek.

"Each child that enters Long Creek, whether they are committed or detained, is assessed within the first few hours of being here. They are assessed by medical and they are assessed by mental health and from that point forward any needs in those areas are met."

The Department of Corrections works with agencies like the ACLU of Maine and the National Alliance on Mental Illness when it comes to creating policies and procedures. Fitzpatrick says those policies are often reviewed to ensure they are up to date.

Zach Heiden with the ACLU said last week that the system had failed Knowles. Commissioner Fitzpatrick agrees. He says in the coming weeks, there will be conversations with outside agencies to ensure this doesn't happen again.

"The good news is, we all want the same thing we want the best process we can, and we want to take care of these kids the best that we can."

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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