CHARLESTON, Maine — Some residents of this small Penobscot County town said Tuesday they are worried about employees who may lose their jobs as the result of changes at the Mountain View Youth Development Center. Others are concerned about the future of the juveniles who have been transferred to a southern Maine facility. Others are waiting for more details.
“We really don’t know much,” said Dave Olmsted, a former apple orchard operator who has lived in the area so long that he remembers when the facility, which is located next to Charleston Correctional Facility, was a radar station.
The mission of Mountain View, which began housing young offenders from northern and central Maine in 2002, is in the process of being changed to handle adult male offenders, officials with the Maine Department of Corrections confirmed Monday.
Olmsted leases his apple orchard and garden land to the state for a work program that helps feed inmates in all of Maine’s prisons and the needy if there is an excess. He talked to a reporter as inmates cut the orchard’s grass and weeded a large garden planted in his backyard.
“I can’t see where it’s going to make any real difference,” Olmsted said of the changes. “I’ve been up there and I know it’s a very secure place.”
The changes are being made to better use the facility, which averaged 71 juvenile inmates daily in 2009, a number that dropped to an average of 27 by 2015, according to data provided by Deputy Corrections Commissioner Jody Breton. The average daily population of Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland also has dropped, from 105 in 2009 to 84 in 2015.
The transition began last year to bring to the facility male prisoners, age 18 to 25, who are “selected from the Maine Correctional Center to participate in rehabilitative programming,” Mountain View’s website states. The last nine juvenile inmates were shipped to Long Creek last week.
Anne Moore, whose daughter runs Cedar Wind Stables, about a quarter mile from the correctional campus, said she worries that programs offered to the youth will not be offered at Long Creek. Mountain View offered vocational programs in culinary and carpentry, according to its website.
“A lot of those kids [at Mountain View] never came back because they learn real job skills,” Moore said as her daughter prepared to lead a group on a riding tour. “I guess it wouldn’t be bad there [with the changes] but I hate to see the job training disappear. There are so many job opportunities.”
She said having a correctional facility so close to her home has “not really” caused any problems, but she did recall that a man escaped several years ago when the facility was operated as a maximum security facility.
Charleston Correctional Facility, located adjacent to the youth center, is a medium security prison.
What has yet to be determined is how many of the youth facility’s approximately 142 employees will keep their jobs. There are professional staff at Mountain View who offer both individual and family therapeutic treatment; psychological and cognitive behavioral therapies; religious, recreational and substance abuse services; and 24-hour medical services, the facility’s website states. Breton and Jeff Morin, Mountain View superintendent, said Monday that many of the skilled workforce will be able to transition to new jobs, but others will be cut.
“We’re hoping to have something to put before the union by next week,” Breton said Monday.
Charleston Selectwoman Terri Hall, who is the liaison to the corrections facility, said it’s just too early to comment on the changes.
“We have a lengthy relationship and it’s been wonderful,” Hall said. “It’s been a good working relationship.”
Ken Martin, owner of the Whitetail Golf Course, which is just around the corner from the prison on School Road, said the changes were news to him.
“We hadn’t heard anything about that,” said Martin, who added that in years past youth at Mountain View have earned the right to play a round of golf for good behavior.
The golf course owner added later that, “I really don’t have a problem with” a change as long as the state feels it is needed, it’s economical and it keeps locals employed.
“You just hope people will be able to keep their jobs,” Martin said.