Letter: Spare the Rod, fear the children

A reader defends Maine's youth prison

photo/Patrick Bonsant

Spare the Rod, fear the children

I must take exception to Bill Lundgren’s portrayal of Rod Bouffard and the staff at Long Creek during the year of 2007 [“Up Long Creek Without a Paddle,” September 2019 issue]. I found Rod’s leadership to be outstanding, taking over a troubled institution and changing a very dismal culture into a facility that was nationally recognized as one of the finest in the nation. People from all around the country visited Long Creek to see the remarkable change that took place and how juvenile corrections had been reformed in Maine. 

During Rod’s time at Long Creek, Performance Based Standards was implemented, which provides more than 100 outcome measures on how a facility performs in safety, order, security, programming, health services, justice, reintegration and connection to family and social supports. Progress was measured against other juvenile facilities across the country. The facility also joined the American Correctional Association, which audited Long Creek every few years while holding it accountable to comply with well over 400 standards. I believe Long Creek scored 100% in each of those audits. 

Massive retraining for staff was conducted in association with the renowned Dr. Ross Greene, author of Collaborative Problem Solving. I find it interesting that Mr. Lundgren, who spent six hours a week at Long Creek, could become such an expert. I wonder what other juvenile-corrections facilities Mr. Lundgren had visited at that time, to compare with Long Creek?

I would assume that Lundgren would have been trained by an exceptional Volunteer Services program provided and improved by Rod and the Long Creek staff. I’m sure he would have been told of the mandated reporting requirements. If he saw residents being verbally assaulted, as he claimed he witnessed, did he ever report those incidents? 

Although he includes an account of a resident stabbing himself with a pencil, Mr. Lundgren found staff’s concern about kids being given rakes and hoes to be overreach and mocks their reaction to the idea. After all, he describes a staff member as “absurdly muscle-bound” — surely they can handle kids with items that could potentially be used as deadly weapons.  

In closing, your previous publication (The Bollard), in a series of articles, glorified the antics of an ex-convict. Yet you allow the character assassination of one of the finest public servants the State of Maine has ever had in Rod Bouffard, comparing him to “a gangster from Goodfellas.” You also disparage a very hard-working and dedicated staff at Long Creek by publishing this article.

I will grant you that Long Creek is having some difficult problems at this time. But insulting people who dedicated themselves to working with a very difficult group of at-risk kids is very disappointing. I hope your paper finds success, but not at the expense of people doing a very difficult and unappreciated job for the people of Maine.

Steve Farrell
Portland