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Old 04-25-2004, 05:32 AM
lovesaron lovesaron is offline
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Default Article: New Long Creek chief accentuates positive

From Portland Press Herald online site:

New Long Creek chief accentuates positive
By GREGORY D. KESICH, Portland Press Herald Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — One teenager asks for help finding a job. Another wants to be sent home. A third boy with a pained look in his eyes wants to be transferred to a drug rehabilitation center before he "ages out" of the juvenile justice system and hits the streets as an adult.

Walking down the hall of the Long Creek Youth Development Center, Rodney Bouffard knows them all.

In November, Bouffard was named the acting superintendent of Southern Maine's juvenile corrections facility. Two weeks ago he was given the job permanently. That means Bouffard is in charge of Long Creek's 250 employees and contractors, and managing its $13.7 million annual budget.

It also means getting to know each of the 120 residents and finding out what will turn their lives around.

"Everyone is wired different, what might work for me won't work for you," Bouffard explained during a tour of the facility last week. "You just have to find out what works."

Bouffard, 52, is a veteran state administrator. Trained as a special education teacher, he became superintendent of the Pineland Center, the state's facility for people with mental disabilities, while it was being closed.

He also served as the superintendent of the Augusta Mental Health Institute while it was being downsized by the state.

At Long Creek, Bouffard takes over another troubled institution. In 1998, Amnesty International made allegations of human-rights abuses at Long Creek's predecessor, the Maine Youth Center.

This year, the state paid $600,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former youth center resident, who alleged that top-ranking officials approved the overuse of restraints and solitary confinement.

That led to two state reviews of the facility and the transfer of former Long Creek superintendent Lars Olsen to another job in the state Department of Corrections.

Even the facility's harshest critics say the types of abuses described in the lawsuit have ended, but other problems still exist. A review issued in February described Long Creek's management team as "two camps . . . actively working against each other's success."

Another review of corrections practices at Long Creek and its sister facility in Charleston, blamed "boredom and inactivity" for bad behavior by "some mischievous and manipulative residents."

Long Creek's rate of discharged residents who commit new crimes within a year of release is 40 percent. It is better than the national rate, which varies between 50 percent to 70 percent on different studies, but still represents a high rate of failure.

Many Long Creek residents end up in prison as adults, helping to fuel the state's prison crowding crisis.

Even though Long Creek is asked to work with the state's most troubled and needy children, the state has a right to expect more, said Edwin Chester, a Portland lawyer who represents juvenile offenders.

Chester said Long Creek has the staff to help stop the patterns of behavior that can doom them to broken lives.

"They have them 24 hours a day and the state has spent a tremendous amount of money on that facility," Chester said. "If anybody can make a difference for these kids, it should be them."

Bouffard agrees. Even though he says the facility is only suited for the highest risk youth, he is striving for a 15 percent recidivism rate. He believes it can be done through intensive programming, both in and outside the facility, a practice known as "wrapping services." Off-grounds jobs, family counseling and visits are encouraged. Punishment is not.

Bouffard said the first way to change behavior is to understand what caused it. In the past, out-of-control residents might be tackled and tied down in restraints. Today, they are more likely to be engaged in conversation. Time in isolation cells is measured in minutes, not days, and restraints are almost never used.

Steve Farrell, who has worked at Long Creek and the youth center for more than 20 years, said he was convinced initially that Bouffard didn't know what he was talking about. He was used to dragging a violent resident to the Special Management Unit to cool off during an outburst.

"I thought, 'This guy is a whack job,' " Farrell said. "This is never going to work."

But Farrell and other staff were surprised. As the use of restraints and isolation decreased, so did assaults. A widespread problem of self-mutilation, a practice known as "cutting," also began to decrease, and is now almost never seen.

Bouffard said people need to see the techniques work before they believe in them. The change was difficult for him when he was a staff member at Pineland. Bouffard was ordered by his boss to stop using a restraint chair when residents lost control.

"I remember saying, 'You're asking us to build a house and you are taking away our tools,' " Bouffard said. "But when you get to know the kid and know how he thinks, you can change that behavior."

Research shows that behavior changes with positive reinforcement, not punishment. He trains staff to praise a residents four time for every one correction. Bouffard said he can back up the research with 30 years of experience working with people.

Bouffard said its important to understand every resident's history. Childhood trauma and abuse in the past can affect current actions. Confronting an enraged child can make his anger worse.

"When you get into that kid's face, his mind disassociates, the adrenaline is going and he's fighting for his life," Bouffard said.

For every resident the successful approach is different. One of the most violent residents learned to control his anger if he was allowed to put himself in the Special Management Unit for a time-out. He is now working two part-time jobs and getting ready for his discharge.

Leaving Long Creek is something that staff members start discussing the day residents arrive. Bouffard has made it easier for family members to visit, and for Long Creek residents to go home for holidays.

"One of the things people forget is that every one of these kids is going to get out one day," Bouffard said. "It is part of our mission to make the community a safer place to to be. What can we do to make them into productive citizens?"
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Old 04-25-2004, 05:34 AM
lovesaron lovesaron is offline
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Default LOng Creek Center History


1998: Amnesty International criticizes the Maine Youth Center for mistreatment. The complaints prompt reviews of the center.

1999: An expert hired by the state issues a scathing report, blaming budget cuts for creating a "prison-like culture." Gov. Angus King unveils a $25.5 million improvement plan for the state's juvenile corrections system.

2000: The state's consultant says the youth center reforms have made "substantial progress," but the institution is still struggling with inadequate staff training and a "custodial culture."

2001, June 25: Michael T., a resident of the youth center during the 1990s, alleges in a lawsuit that he was tied down for long periods and locked in solitary confinement for more than a month at a time.

The Maine Youth Center is overhauled and renamed the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

2003, Oct. 14: The governor's office launches an investigation into allegations that youth center officials violated the facility's rules by using solitary confinement and physical restraints for longer periods than regulations allow.

Oct. 15: Union workers at Long Creek take a vote of no confidence in the facility's top administration.

Oct. 20: Long Creek Superintendent Lars Olsen is removed while the state investigates how the facility is run.

Oct. 21: Rodney Bouffard, Long Creek's head of operations, is appointed interim superintendent.

2004, January: An independent review of restraint and isolation practices at Long Creek and Mountain View in Charleston finds no current deliberate abuse but urges some changes.

Olsen is permanently removed from the post of superintendent.

February: The state agrees to settle the Michael T. lawsuit for $600,000.

Feb. 11: Gov. John Baldacci releases a report on the management of Long Creek. The report finds that management is impeded by discontent, fragmentation and distrust among the staff and senior management.

April: Bouffard is confirmed as Long Creek's new superintendent. - Compiled by staff researchers Beth Murphy
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