Maine – Today, Youth First Initiative and Maine Youth Justice released a new poll showing a vast majority of Mainers favor investing in community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. The poll found 59% support closing existing and abstaining from building new youth prisons for a more individualized approach to youth justice, focused on each child’s circumstances and needs rather than immediately placing young people behind bars.
As the Biden-Harris Administration sets its agenda around criminal justice and ushers in new leadership at the Department of Justice, transforming the youth justice system to focus on community supports over punishment continues to have overwhelming support across the country. Across identities, the majority of Americans believe that youth would be best served by community-based supports such as education, job training and community services, not taken away from their communities and support systems and incarcerated. These beliefs were echoed by Mainers.
“The results of this new poll make clear that Mainers across the state recognize the harmful impact that incarceration has on our youth and broader community,” said Abdul Ali, Advocacy Director of Maine Youth Justice. “Youth incarceration not only stifles young people’s growth and development, but it is also incredibly traumatizing and dangerous to their mental and physical health. It is critical that elected leaders, including Governor Mills, use this information to finally close Long Creek Youth Development Center and reinvest in the community supports our youth so urgently and desperately need. Our young people cannot wait.”
Youth First, a national advocacy organization working to end youth incarceration and reimagine the youth justice system, commissioned the poll conducted by GBA Strategies.
The survey of 500 adults found that:
93% support design treatment and rehabilitation plans that include a youth’s family in planning services
89% support an increase in spending on youth rehabilitation
87% support an increase in spending on social workers and mental health counselors
83% support changing the system so that incarceration is not the automatic or default response for youth in the justice system
The poll found that the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents favor investing in these and other programs focused on community supports. After learning more about the benefit of community-based programs and the logic behind closing youth prisons, 74% of Mainers supported a policy to end youth incarceration.
Maine legislators are considering bills to transform the juvenile justice system, including a proposal to close Long Creek and reinvest the $18.6 million public dollars used to operate it into community led support for young people and their families.
To view the full poll results, click here.