The Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland Credit: Jake Bleiberg / BDN

To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit

The mother of a transgender teenager who died by suicide while incarcerated at Maine’s youth prison nearly 4 1/2 years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Maine Department of Corrections.

Michelle Knowles of North Vassalboro alleges that despite suicide threats and attempts, the staff at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland showed deliberate indifference to the serious risk that Charles Maise Knowles, who was born female but identified as male, would injure himself by placing him in a cell that was neither suicide-resistant nor free of protrusions.

Long Creek’s suicide prevention policy, approved in early 2012, did not include the use of suicide-resistant and protrusion-free rooms, the complaint said. That allegedly violated Knowles’ 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law as a pretrial detainee.

On Oct. 29, 2016, Long Creek staff found the 16-year-old dead in his cell. He had been incarcerated at the facility since Aug. 18, 2016.

Michelle Knowles is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

She named as defendants in the lawsuit: Joseph Ponte, former commissioner of the Department of Corrections; Edward O’Connor, facility operations supervisor at Long Creek; and Guy W. Tinkham and Heather E. Carron, both juvenile program workers at the facility who found the teen.

After Charles Knowles’ death, the department hired an outside consultant who made the following recommendations, most of which were implemented:

— That the Maine Department of Corrections and/or Maine Criminal Justice Academy develop a curriculum specific to suicide prevention in juvenile correctional facilities.

— That all direct care, security, education, medical and mental health staff should receive eight hours of initial suicide prevention training, followed by a minimum of two hours of annual training.

— That the comprehensive screening process for identification of suicide risk be improved.

— That all youth on suicide precautions be allowed to attend school and receive family visits and telephone calls unless those privileges have been suspended.

Correction: A previous version of this story had an incorrect date for Knowles’ death.