Join the fight to close Maine’s sole youth prison, Long Creek Youth Development Center, and end youth incarceration in Maine. Maine Youth Justice, an abolitionist campaign founded by young people impacted by incarceration, says, “Our goal is to close Long Creek, Maine’s youth detention facility, and create safer and stronger communities by investing in a continuum of community-based supports where all of Maine’s young people can not only survive, but thrive.” They advocate for the reinvestment of Long Creek’s annual $18.6 million budget and the repurposing of the property into a community center and housing. The 2021 Maine Legislature passed a bill to close Long Creek, which Governor Mills vetoed.
2. Reject Any New Or Expanded Carceral Facilities In Maine
No Penobscot County Jail Expansion and De-ICE Maine are two organizations in Maine fighting against the expansion of carceral facilities in the state. Rather than invest in building new jails, expanding prisons, and building new detention centers, abolitionists advocate directing those funds toward things that would create safer, healthier communities: affordable housing, mental health support, substance use disorder treatment, poverty alleviation, and compassionate supports for immigrants.
3. Invest American Rescue Plan Act Funding In Direct Support To Communities Devastated By The Pandemic
Abolition calls for addressing the systemic causes of suffering in our society, which requires redistribution of resources currently used to incarcerate toward life-sustaining efforts. Funds can be used for housing assistance, direct aid, resources for teachers and students, and violence interruption programs that don’t involve the police. Resources about these funds here.
With the exception of marijuana, which was decriminalized in 1976 and fully legalized for adult recreational use in 2016, Maine’s drug laws are very harsh. Current Maine law allows prosecutors to bring furnishing and trafficking charges for amounts that could be for personal use. There is a growing movement in Maine to change punitive drug laws. In 2021, activists successfully pushed for LD994, which eliminated criminal penalties for the possession of hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia. LD967, which would have changed drug sentencing laws to make possession of drugs for personal use a civil offense with fine or health assessment, passed the Maine House and came close in the Senate, failing in a bipartisan 14-18 vote. Help end the war on drugs, which is actually a war on people, families, loved ones and communities, by supporting decriminalizing possession and treating problematic substance use as a public health issue and not a criminal matter.
Cash bail creates two systems of justice: one for the wealthy and one for everyone else. Legally innocent people are held in jail before they’ve had their day in court simply because they can’t afford bail. In Maine, the majority of people in jail on any given day – between 60 – 80 percent – have not been convicted of a crime. Cash bail creates a system of poverty-based incarceration and is a key driver of mass incarceration. Studies have found that defendants who can’t afford bail are more likely to be sentenced to longer jail or prison time. They are also more likely to take plea deals and plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. In 2021, Maine passed a law to eliminate cash bail for non-violent, low-level misdemeanors (known as Class E misdemeanors). This is an important first step in a longer journey to end the practice of cash bail altogether.
Solitary confinement is torture. Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating an incarcerated person in a cell for 22-24 hours per day, with extremely limited human contact; natural light, and access to materials like books, television and the radio which approximate contact with the outside world. Incarcerated people in solitary experience deteriorating mental health, including hallucinations, severe anxiety, detachment from reality and engaging in self-harm. People who’ve been in solitary have trouble reintegrating into social settings, both within prison and upon release, and many experience lasting mental health impacts. While Maine has engaged in significant reforms to how prisons use solitary confinement, it is still permitted.
How Have You Been Affected by Maine’s Criminal Legal System?
Tell your story of how you have been affected by Maine’s criminal justice operations for the Freedom & Captivity Archive, housed online at the Maine Historical Society.
The Freedom & Captivity Archive is a story bank of how criminal justice operations in Maine have affected Mainers across generations, locations, backgrounds, and experiences. The archive is hosted in Maine Historical Society’s My Maine Stories website. It is open to anyone who has a story to tell about being affected by the criminal justice system, whether directly or through a family member or friend. You can submit your story as a written story, a video, an audio piece, or in photographs. Your story can be anonymous, and you can help someone else tell their story.
Some possible story prompts include:
– Who are you? Tell us about yourself.
– How did the system impact you?
– How did it feel to be touched or impacted by the system?
– How did it affect the people who love you?
– What has happened to you since you were impacted?
– What do you want people to know about your experience?
– What does freedom mean to you?
To share your story, go to the Tell My Story page and fill in the form. For ‘Story Topic’ select ‘Freedom & Captivity’. This form will ask for your information, story title, and story summary. You can make your story anonymous by checking the ‘Make me anonymous’ box.
Created in partnership by Maine State Museum, Maine State Archives, and Maine State Library.
Explore incarceration in Maine through historic artifacts, images, documents, and sound recordings! Students do the work of historians as they find clues and form conclusions. Four themes guide students through complicated stories from Maine’s past, including optional activities and reflection questions. These packets are designed for Grades 3-12 and are available for free download online.
Who Is Doing The Work
This is a list of organizations in Maine that are fighting for abolitionist-aligned systemic transformations toward harm reduction, racial justice, social justice, and drug policy reform.
All incarcerated citizens and noncitizens have certain inalienable rights that shall not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, gender identification, race, color, religion, national origin, physical and/or mental handicap, sexual orientation or as a punitive measure in the form of retaliation against the incarcerated individual or loved ones.
1. Whereas, humane conditions are an absolute expectation of a civilized society, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a safe and healthy environment that is free of physical, emotional, mental, verbal, and sexual abuse and harassment;
2. Whereas, government has a fundamental responsibility to protect those in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– timely, free health and dental care that includes, but is not limited to, substance use disorder treatment, trauma-informed mental health care reproductive health care and preventative care in all areas, including vaccinations and regular exercise;
– gender responsive health care, recognizing all gender identities; and accessible and responsive health care for individuals with disabilities;
3. Whereas, respect for human dignity extends to people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– personal hygiene and menstrual items, at no cost; and
– gender parity in all areas including but not limited to access to visits, medical care, technology, education, and programming;
4. Whereas, the last vestiges of slave labor and similar practices must end, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– be considered employees of the state and subject to the minimum wage requirements afforded employees, as well as safe working conditions;
5. Whereas, constitutional rights do not end when people are convicted or held in pre-trial status, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– full voting privileges as accorded by law, including the ability to register to vote and have contact with their elected representatives;
6. Whereas, food sustains life and has heightened importance to many people in jails and prisons, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a balanced diet that meets established requirements for nutrition and conforms to medical, religious and/or ethical needs;
7. Whereas, human contact is vital to personal well-being and family relations, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– in-person visits with family members and other loved ones that include physical contact, support for and opportunities for continued parental involvement and reunification after successful completion of any required programming; and
– freedom from solitary confinement, which can have profound and permanent detrimental impacts on mental and physical health;
8. Whereas, ties with relatives and friends benefit people in jails and prisons, as well as their families and communities, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– access to electronic communications to speak and interact with families and loved ones at east weekly;
9. Whereas, the safe and humane functioning of jails and prisons benefits from the ideas and insights of those being held, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– provide input on issues related to the facility including lockdowns, education and recreation services, and staff conduct;
10. Whereas, concerns and problems raised by people in jails and prisons must be taken seriously and properly evaluated, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– a simple, formal, credible and transparent grievance process that includes an independent prisoner advocate for all facilities free from DOC oversight;
– unimpeded access to every facility’s Board of Visitors, their contact information and input into the required reports.
11. Whereas, virtually everyone being held will be returning to our communities and is deserving of assistance to make the transitions successful, individuals who are incarcerated have the right to:
– meaningful reentry planning, regardless of classification, from day one of incarceration, backed by financial support from the DOC that ensures community support, housing, employment opportunities and healthcare access, and which allows for choices in programming and input from the resident.
Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project
The Freedom & Captivity Curricula Project is building curricula on abolitionist themes from the materials created by 2021’s Freedom & Captivity initiative and featured on this website. These curricula can be used to facilitate conversations with community groups, study groups inside of prisons, and in college courses in order to foster conversations inside, outside, and across the walls about abolitionist questions like: What would accountability look like in an abolitionist society? How is repair addressed in an abolitionist society? What does ‘community’ mean in a context of incarceration? What does liberation sound like and move like? What is the relationship between freedom, liberation, and abolitionism? What is the relationship between racial equity, repair, justice, and abolition? How can we model concepts of justice, repair, liberation and abolition in poetry, movement, narrative, spoken word, and stories?
The courses are: ‘Loss, Repair, and Transformation;’ ‘Journeys of Trauma, Healing and Forgiveness;’ and ‘What is Liberation?’ Each 13-week curriculum can be broken down into smaller segments. The curricula will be available as downloadable pdfs on this website in fall 2023.
The Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project Team:
Abdulkadir Ali is an Ethiopian-American social activist. From human rights to community leadership, Mr. Ali addresses issues that continuously occur in silenced communities caused by systematic oppression. He is an Artistic Director with Maine Inside Out, an organization that uses theater to engage communities around the subject of incarceration, and works as the Advocacy Director with Maine Youth Justice. An organization that brings people of all backgrounds together to address the failures of the criminal/juvenile justice system while working to advance reform. Mr. Ali also works in partnership with the Young People’s Caucus, which connects policy decision makers with young people to discuss and learn about topics that are important to youth, and Opportunity Scholars at the University of Southern Maine, which creates a bridge for formerly incarcerated young people to access post-secondary education. As a formerly incarcerated young man, Mr. Ali works tirelessly as an activist and organizer on behalf of Maine’s most vulnerable populations. Mr. Ali lives in Portland. Ali uses philosophical poetry from life’s experiences to meaningful messages in hopes of a better world.
Catherine Besteman is an abolitionist educator at Colby College. She founded Freedom & Captivity, the Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project, the Freedom & Captivity Archive of carceral experience, the Colby Across the Walls prison education program, and the Colby College Justice Think Tank and is a DJ for Justice Radio. She has researched and published on carcerality, security, militarism, displacement, and community-based activism and transformation, focused on Somalia, South Africa, and the U.S.
Geneviève Beaudoin has been with the Freedom & Captivity initiative since 2020, supporting efforts in communications, website management, the Freedom & Captivity archive, and the forthcoming Freedom & Captivity Curriculum Project.
Jan Collins, Associate Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Freedom & Captivity board member curates exhibitions of work by incarcerated artists around the state, facilitates art programming inside Maine Prison facilities, and collects creative material for the Freedom & Captivity archive at Maine Historical Society. She works tirelessly to educate legislators and the public about carceral issues and the people who are shaped by them including family members like herself.
Jon Courtney is an event coordinator and film programmer. He organizes film and musical performance programming through the NAACP Branch at the Maine State Prison and at the Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center and facilitates men’s integrity circles through the Jericho Circle Project at Maine State Prison. He coordinates book drives and library planning for correctional facilities in Maine and stewards podcast and film content onto the Edovo tablet systems. He served as board member for Maine Inside Out and Freedom & Captivity.
Linda Small is the founder and executive director of Reentry Sisters, an emergent nonprofit support organization specializing in a gender-responsive and trauma-informed approach for women’s reentry. She serves on the New England Commission for the Future of Higher Education in Prison at the Educational Justice Institute at MIT. She is a Columbia University Women’s Collective Leadership Fellow, focusing on changing the impact of the carceral state on women and girls, a member of the Justice Scholars Network, and the Colby College Justice Think Tank, highlighting the scholarship and research of justice-impacted people. Linda collaborated with the Freedom & Captivity team to develop community-based classes taught by incarcerated people and serves on the Mass Incarceration Convening Planning Committee for the national humanities councils while completing a Master of Science in Adult and Higher Education.
Andre “Dray” Hicks is a social entrepreneur, mentor and national performance artist who has performed with the Yeti and Kool G. Rap. Andre is a Deering High School alumni student athlete, lives in Portland with his family and is the longstanding Manager of Toni’s Touch, Portland’s cornerstone barbershop and salon in the Portland community. Building upon his lived experience in the justice system as a youth and adult, he works as a mentor to young people and adults with the Opportunity Scholars Initiative at the University of Southern Maine and organizes with Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition. Andre facilitates weekly groups of currently and formerly incarcerated people to build positive reentry supports and works to create opportunities for people to aspire to greatness and thrive. He uses the tools of writing, conversation, and performance art to facilitate justice as healing and liberation and mentors’ youth in financial literacy and wellbeing.
Leo Hylton is a PhD student at George Mason University’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. His education and work are based in trauma-informed, healing-centered Restorative Justice practices, and are focused on Social Justice Advocacy and Activism, with a vision toward an abolitionist future. Toward that end, he has worked as a Visiting Instructor at Colby College, co-teaching AY346 – Carcerality and Abolition. He was a lead facilitator of Maine State Prison’s Restorative Practices Steering Committee, served on Colby College’s Restorative Practices Team, and provides consultation to RJ practitioners in the US and abroad. Leo is a core organizer of the Carter School Working Group on Forgiveness and Reconciliation, creating spaces of co-learning, growth, and trauma healing in the context of forgiveness and reconciliation. He is also a columnist for the The Bollard (formerly Mainer), where he writes a monthly column to raise public consciousness around the existence and power of humanity in carceral spaces. Leo’s education, work, and research are informed by his experience as a currently incarcerated citizen in Maine State Prison.
A. Cuba Jackson is an abolitionist and Strategic Partnership Lead with MPAC. He holds an associate degree (magna cum laude) from UMA. Founder of 3T Builders and Renovators, he channels his experience from Maine’s prison system into justice reform and contributes to the Freedom & Captivity Curriculum.
Joseph Jackson is Director of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Director of Leadership Development for Maine Inside Out, a theater group for formerly incarcerated youth. During his 20-year period of incarceration he founded the Maine State Prison chapter of the NAACP, completed two BA degrees and was accepted into an MFA program, which he completed post-release. He serves as a board member of the Prison Education Partnership and was on Freedom & Captivity’s advisory board.
Erica King, MSW, is Director of the Place Matters program at University of Southern Maine, coordinator of the Opportunity Scholars Network, and member of the Prison Education Partnership. She teaches inside Maine’s prisons, provides trainings to Department of Corrections staff on equity and de-escalation techniques, and overseas the creation of regional care teams for assisting formerly incarcerated people who are reentering society.
Bobby Payzant did not have to go to heaven to be an angel. He cared for his dying brothers in the prison hospice program with tenderness and love. When he was released, he visited their graves and kept them ever in his thoughts as he advocated for more compassionate care for the ill and elderly within prison walls. Before legislative committees, he spoke truth to power and never stopped caring about those who had no voice. He held himself accountable for the wrongs he had committed and was his own harshest critic. He would be so proud of all of those who made this curriculum possible.
Brian Pitman is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Clemson University teaching criminology classes. Brian’s public sociology pieces have been published in the Bangor Daily News, Truthout, and Shelterforce. He has worked with the Freedom & Captivity Project since 2020.
Wendy Allen recently completed a prison sentence in Maine and works as a recovery coach with Maine Recovery Advocacy Coalition, a community facilitator with Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, and is a program facilitator for the Maine Humanities Council. She is completing her degree with Washington County Community College. She facilitates book discussion groups through the Maine Humanities Council and collaborated on Freedom & Captivity public programming while incarcerated.
This project is supported by an American Council of Learned Societies Sustaining Public Engagement Grant, a Maine Humanities Council SHARP grant, the Mellon Foundation, Opportunity Scholars of University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and Colby College.