ACLU of Maine Files Lawsuit Over Beating of 11-Year-Old at Long Creek
Child Was Denied Adequate Medical Care Before and After Guards Attacked Him
PORTLAND – The brutal beating of a 11-year-old boy with mental illness by two guards at Long Creek Youth Development Center is the subject of a lawsuit filed today by the ACLU of Maine. The civil rights case challenges the use of excessive force, deliberately indifferent medical care, and statutory violations against the boy, referred to in the case as A.I.
“A.I. experienced cruelty and negligence at the hands of multiple individuals and institutions throughout his long and painful ordeal,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. “He was failed by the entire system. No child deserves to be treated like this, ever.”
A.I. has been diagnosed with severe mental illness, including ADHD. A court found him not competent to stand trial for an incident where he acted out at a local pool after being told he couldn’t swim in the deep end. As a result, the court dismissed all charges against him.
Before the charges were dropped, A.I. was held at Long Creek for over a month at the request of the prosecutor, despite requests from his mother and several community members that he be released to his family.
While held at Long Creek, A.I. was denied medication for his ADHD. He was repeatedly punished for behavior stemming from his illness, rather than being provided with necessary treatment, leading to worsening symptoms.
On July 26, 2017, A.I. was upset after being told he would not be allowed to attend a facility picnic, and tossed his breakfast tray on the floor. As punishment, he was locked in his cell alone and repeatedly denied use of the bathroom, making the symptoms of his disability even worse. Upset, he said he would set off the sprinkler system. Correctional officers removed his shoes, pillow and blanket from the cell, causing A.I. to become increasingly agitated.
Despite the absence of any physical threat, two corrections officers then entered A.I.’s cell, forcefully grabbed him, and bashed his face into the bare metal bedframe, breaking and knocking out his teeth. After knocking out his teeth, the two officers tried to put a “spit mask” on A.I., which could have caused him to choke on his own blood.
A.I. was then shackled at the hands and feet before finally being transported to the emergency room, where he did not see a dentist. When he finally saw a dentist six days later, the dentist refused to treat the broken tooth fragments still in A.I.’s mouth because he had difficulty sitting still in the chair. Seven months later, A.I. still does not have front teeth.
The attack was captured by at least one video camera, and the recording is currently in Maine Department of Corrections (DOC) custody.
“The brutal beating of an 11-year-old child is a stark reminder that Long Creek is a prison, and the young people held there are treated like prisoners,” said Heiden. “It’s time to stop putting our kids in prison and start getting them the help they need.”
The lawsuit charges excessive and negligent use of force and deliberate indifference to A.I.’s medical needs in violation of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process, as well as the Maine Constitution, which protects the inherent and unalienable right to safety. The lawsuit also charges refusal to provide reasonable accommodations for A.I.’s disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
It names the DOC, various DOC and Long Creek officials, officers and medical professionals, and Correct Care Solutions as defendants.
The ACLU complaint is available here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/ai_compl._3.14.2018.pdf
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.
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Youth are still developing, so as a result society treats kids and adults differently in several contexts, such as driving and serving in the military. Yet in the criminal justice system, we treat youth as adults.