USM Issues Report on Youth Overrepresented in Maine’s Criminal Justice System


A new report from the Catherine E. Cutler Institute at USM shows 1 – 10 young adults ages 18 to 24 in Maine have had some level of contact with Maine Department of Corrections in a press release issued today on the subject.  The study examined a snapshot of data provided by MaineDOC in April 2021 and aimed to better understand the makeup of young adults who have been impacted by Maine’s criminal justice system.  The data included all young people in Maine who were aged18 – to – 24 at the time of the extract and had previous contact with the Department of Corrections, not including the county jail system.

The report, titled “Emerging Adults – An Analylsis of Young Adults with Justice System HIstories in Maine,” found that while a large number of young adults in Maine (over 12,000) had been previously referred to the juvenile justice system most (86%) were never incarcerated and the majority had not returned to the system as adults.

The report also found that young adults who were identified as BIPOC experience higher rates of contact with the MaineDOC system.  Young people who are Black or African-‘American are two times as likely to enter the MaineDOC system compared to their white counterparts.  Compared to Maine’s overall 18-to-14 year-old population estimates, the researachers report a higher proportion of both men and BIPOC individuals with histories of incarceration,”

A highlight of the report shows relatively low rates of incarceration among 18-to-24-year-olds with juvenile referral histories, demonstrating successful diversive efforts byMaineDOC,  In a series of recommendations that reinforce key findings from related studies in Maine, the report calls for an expression of these pretrial diversion efforts. In addition, the authors suggest prioritizing substance and mental health treatment, anti-racism strategies and policies that minimize the lifelong impact of criminal records on access to employment and housing.

“Community-based supports that focus on connection and provide stability are key for this popjulation,” said Ms. Jillian Foley, a policy associate at the Catherine Cutler Institute and the report’s lead author.  “Investing in positive outcomes for all of Maine’s young people will promote safety and well-being in Maine’s local communities.”

The Catherine E. Cutler Institute for Heallth and Special Projects was formed in 2009 by the Muskie School of Public Service at USM.  It conducts research and policy analysis, program development and evaluation and training and technical assistance programs in four closely related areas.