The Department of Corrections is reviewing policies after a transgender teen’s death

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. We hope your Thanksgiving is relaxing and delicious. The newsletter will be on hiatus tomorrow. See you on Friday.

What we’re talking about

Jake Bleiberg reports on the latest news around the suicide of a transgender teen at Long Creek Youth Development Center.

He writes:

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’ 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.

Traffic news

Downtown will be a mess tomorrow for the Thanksgiving road race, WGME reports:

The following roads will be closed to traffic from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Thursday:

— Congress Street, from High Street to Franklin Street

— Franklin Street, from Congress to Commercial Street

— Exchange Street

— Free Street

— Federal Street Extension

— Temple Street, from Congress Street to Middle Street

The following day, Congress Street will be closed for the tree lighting between Preble and Elm streets from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastbound traffic will be blocked starting at Brown Street.

In other news

Portland is moving forward with a plan to create an office to help immigrants — Jake reports that a City Council committee unanimously voted to approve the creation of an office designed to help immigrants and disadvantaged Mainers find work.

Named the Office of Economic Opportunity after some committee wrangling, the proposed body would help immigrants enroll in programs for education and training — like those offered by groups including Catholic Charities and Portland Adult Education. Strimling and committee chairman David Brenerman agreed that the office should also help immigrants and disadvantaged Mainers find jobs by both connecting them with opportunities and encouraging local businesses to hire them.

A group is petitioning for the state to exclude tipped workers from the new minimum wage rule — The Press Herald’s Dennis Hoey reports:

The petition, which organizers said had been signed by 300 people, seeks to show lawmakers that there is considerable support for leaving things the way they are, said Erica Jackson, one of the organizers.

“The purpose of this petition is to bring to the attention of our legislators the need for the Tipped Wage Credit to be reinstated after the passing of Question 4 on Nov. 8. We are not asking that the minimum wage portion of the bill be changed, just the tipped credit portion,” the petition states. “It is common knowledge in the restaurant industry that service staff earn, with tips, way more than the minimum wage.”

Jackson, a Scarborough resident who has worked in the restaurant industry for 11 years, said she personally supports raising the minimum wage, but like many people working in the hospitality industry, is worried that it will lead to layoffs if owners are forced to raise menu prices.

A Maine cartoon character will make her 20th appearance in the Macy’s parade tomorrowTroy R. Bennett writes:

If you’re watching television tomorrow, as the smell of turkey wafts through the house, and your relatives argue about politics in the other room, keep an eye out for Twig Wompkee in the Macy’s parade. It’s a big day for her.

‘Stop Worrying About Food Pairings And Just Drink a Damn Beer Already’ — Your uncle will probably offer you a Miller Lite tomorrow. It’s OK.

The Big Idea

The solution to hunger could be in Maine’s own back yard — Julia Bayly and Kathleen Pierce report:

Some 16.2 percent of all households struggle to afford enough quality food and often skip meals, which makes Maine today the ninth hungriest state in the country, according to USDA data.. …

Yet, in parallel to this trend, is Maine’s burgeoning local food movement. There are seemingly more available food options and providers than ever before. From school gardens, to senior farm shares, to food councils, helping hands are extended from many directions and connections are forming to link Maine’s local growers with the state’s hungriest citizens.

Sandy Gilbreath, project coordinator for Maine Food Strategy, said the solution to hunger is right under our feet.

“We have a disconnected, out-of-balance food system,” said Gilbreath. “There is so much opportunity. If we can use those resources in a more coordinated way we can make some big strides in solving these problems.”

Against this backdrop, it’s easy to view farming and local food as an answer to the hunger problem. But the reality can be more complicated, especially for small subsistence farmers around the state, who may not have much extra to share.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at, or tweet @dsmacleod.

As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.

Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.