CHARLESTON, Maine — The Mountain View Youth Development Center is at the top of its class in the nation.
The center, which serves juveniles who are either being detained for court proceedings or who are serving sentences, scored 100 during an audit for reaccreditation conducted last week by the American Correctional Association. The facility received the highest score ever given in Maine and one of the highest scores in the nation for juvenile detention centers, according to Eric Hansen, Mountain View’s superintendent of operations.
“In a few short years, Mountain View has transformed from a small regional detention facility with an important, albeit limited, mission into a full-service comprehensive juvenile youth development center that is recognized as the best of its type in the nation,” Hansen told employees and juveniles during a gathering last Friday.
Auditor Jeff Rogers of HCA of Virginia, a health care service company, called the Mountain View Youth Development Center one of the “finest facilities” in the United States. He doled out praise to the volunteers, the leadership and the employees, including Gerry Merrill, accreditation manager.
Rogers said that of the 22 states he has visited and conducted ACA accreditation surveys, he has not found a better juvenile justice system than the one in Maine.
“For us, it validates that we’re doing the right thing,” Hansen said of the facility that opened in 2002. He said it spoke well of the effort the employees make on a daily basis to try to change the lives of those youths who pass through the center’s doors.
Equally pleased was Denise Lord, associate commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections. “We’re extremely proud of the staff and leadership at Mountain View; it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” she said Monday.
The center serves a population of about 130 youths. There are more males than females because the Charleston facility serves only those females awaiting court hearings; the remainder are incarcerated in South Portland.
The youths require a variety of services. About 80 percent have at least one mental health diagnosis; 60 percent meet special education requirements; 80 percent come with significant substance abuse problems; 25 percent have significant learning disabilities, about 25 percent of the boys and about 90 percent of the girls have been sexually, mentally or physically abused and only 17 percent come from two-parent biological families.
Lord said Maine has always invested in and supported juvenile corrections. “I think we’re beginning to see the results of the investment and commitment to improve the services.” She said the state’s other juvenile facility, Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, will have its audit done late next month. She said she hopes that facility also will have a perfect score.
Hansen said the facility received its accreditation in 2006 and must undergo reaccreditation every three years. This was the year for that essential step, he said. The American Correctional Association, the oldest and largest international correctional association in the world, provided two auditors who reviewed 454 standards at the facility and rated everything from medical practices to the temperature of the food to protocols and practices.
“This is the gold standard for accreditation for facilities of this type,” Larry Austin, deputy superintendent of operations, said Monday. He said investing in the juvenile system helps keep some of the juveniles from becoming adult offenders. About 20 percent of those who serve in the facility reoffend, which is well below the national average of 45 percent, he said.
By embracing best practices with its checks and balances, it helps in any litigation that may stem from juvenile incarceration, according to Austin. Courts know that the facility is following procedures and best practices.