PORTLAND, Maine — The Department of Corrections is reviewing its policies around suicide prevention and transgender inmates after the death of teenage detainee Charles Maisie Knowles, according to the department.
“State and federal experts” are going over the protocols at the Long Creek Youth Development Center, Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said in a statement Wednesday.
Knowles, a 16-year-old transgender boy, hanged himself at Long Creek on Oct. 29 and died in a Portland hospital days later. Knowles had been on and off suicide watch before he took his own life, had made previous attempts at suicide, and suffered from a battery of mental illnesses, his mother, Michelle Knowles, told MPBN.
Fitzpatrick’s statement came after more than a week of declining to answer questions or provide Department of Corrections protocols around suicide. Knowles’s death is being investigated by the department and the Maine attorney general’s office, as is normal procedure when someone dies in state custody.
“It is heart-wrenching to remain silent; however … I am legally bound to refrain from comments about an ongoing investigation,” Fitzpatrick said.
Michelle Knowles said her son’s death was preventable. Charles Knowles was not receiving the full array of health and mental health services he needed because he was a detainee awaiting trial and not a committed resident at Long Creek, she said.
But Fitzpatrick contested this claim.
The prison medical department “provide[s] comprehensive treatment services to every young person at Long Creek, detained or committed,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and GLAD, a Boston-based LGBTQ advocacy group, have asked the attorney general to use “special consideration” in investigating Knowles’ death.