November 14, 2016 / 7:35 PM / 3 years ago

ACLU urges probe into transgender teen's suicide in Maine jail

BOSTON (Reuters) - Civil rights advocates on Monday called on Maine officials to mount a special investigation into the death of a transgender male teenager who was held in the female wing of a state youth detention center about two weeks ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders urged the state’s attorney general to appoint an investigator with experience in issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to look into the death, which it said occurred some time between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, while the teenager was on suicide watch.

State officials have confirmed that a teen died at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, but have not provided details, according to local media. State corrections officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ACLU and GLAD groups said that multiple sources confirmed the teen’s death was a suicide.

“Not only is it critical to understand what happened with this young person, but this death raises urgent, substantial concerns about the conditions, policies, patterns and practices at Long Creek and the health, safety and well-being of transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth,” lawyers from the ACLU and GLAD wrote in a letter to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills made public on Monday.

A spokesman for Mills declined to comment.

Transgender rights issues have soared into U.S. public consciousness over the past year, with issues including people’s right to use public toilets and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity becoming a topic of fierce debate.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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