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Kenneth Morang told police he fell asleep at the wheel after an overtime shift at the Cumberland County Jail when his pickup truck slammed into the back of an SUV, killing a 9-year-old girl.

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A former Cumberland County corrections officer who told police he fell asleep at the wheel before a crash in July that killed a 9-year-old girl is facing a manslaughter charge.

Kenneth Morang, 62, was indicted this month by a Cumberland County grand jury in connection to the July 21 crash on Route 25 in Gorham. Morang worked for 13 years as a corrections officer, but resigned earlier this month because of injuries he suffered in the crash, which prevented him from returning to work, according to the Sheriff’s office.

Raelynn Bell, of Cumberland, was in the third row of her father’s Honda SUV when Morang’s truck slammed into the back of the vehicle, which was stopped in the road to make a left-hand turn. The family was returning from seeing “The Lion King” movie.

Bell suffered a serious brain injury and was flown by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center, but died two days after the crash. Other family members suffered serious injuries but survived.

The prosecution of Morang will be handled by the York County District Attorney’s office because of Morang’s previous employment by Cumberland County, said York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan.

Phone numbers listed for Morang, of Standish, were not in service Thursday afternoon or did not permit incoming calls. He could not be reached for comment.

Bell’s family declined to comment, but their attorney, Walter F. McKee, issued a brief statement on their behalf via email.

“This has been an unspeakable tragedy for this family,” McKee said. “We were in touch with the District Attorney’s Office and were aware that the indictment was handed down. The indictment is small solace but of course none of this will bring Raelynn back.”

McKee said he has been retained by the family to represent Raelynn’s estate, but he is still researching whether the county bears any responsibility in Raelynn’s death. If McKee intends to file suit, he first must file a notice of claim with the county, a standard step whenever an individual intends to take legal action against a municipality.

When asked if he has filed suit against Morang personally, McKee offered a brief reply: “Not yet,” he said.

Morang had worked a string of long days and overtime shifts immediately before the crash. Such extended, often voluntary overtime shifts are now part of  negotiations between the correction officers’ union and county management, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said in a statement Thursday.

Joyce said he hopes to strike a balance between needing to fill vacant correction officer shifts while not unnecessarily limiting the ability of a corrections officer to work desired overtime shifts.

“There is no documented guidance on the optimum number of hours that an employee should/shouldn’t work overtime,” Joyce said in the statement. “Research indicates that there is no federal or state law that governs the maximum hours of overtime an employee should work for their safety or anyone else’s safety.”

The week of the crash, Morang worked a total of 88 hours at the jail, and he had done consecutive double-shifts during the two days before the crash, according to information released by Joyce’s office. Morang’s last shift began at 11 p.m. Saturday and ended at 2:27 p.m. Sunday, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said previously. The crash occurred about 2:53 p.m., police said. All of those shifts that week were voluntary.

Morang, who has been a correctional office for at least seven years, earns $20.99 per hour, or a gross salary of $43,659. Most full-time workers who clock 40 hours per week log about 2,000 paid hours per year, depending on vacation and time off.

In 2018, however, Morang worked 2,654.5 hours of overtime worth an additional $82,750, and was on track to continue working a high number of overtime hours this year. Through July 13 of 2019, Morang worked 1,671.38 overtime hours, according to information released by the sheriff’s office on Tuesday.

It is relatively common for corrections officers to work multiple extra shifts in one week at the Cumberland County Jail. In the five-week period before the crash, 15 to 17 employees each week worked more than three extra shifts, county records show.

Joyce said he planned to have an expert make a presentation to employees and union representatives to discuss the dangers of sleep deprivation.

“Officer Morang made this trip to and from work on many occasions without incident, however, unfortunately during the trip in question a 9-year-old girl lost her life,” Joyce wrote in the statement released Thursday. “We are committed to doing what we can to meet the needs of the public, needs of the employee and the needs of the organization in a manner that doesn’t endanger others. Again, we send our deepest condolences to the Bell family.”

Currently, there is no mechanism or contractual language that limits the number of hours a corrections officer may work in a given time period. Employees at the jail are expected to self-regulate.

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The administrator of the Cumberland County Jail said overtime and double shifts are typically required of corrections officers twice a week as the jail faces a staffing shortage.

The case of a corrections officer who police said had just come off a 16-hour shift at the jail before causing a crash in Gorham that killed a 9-year-old girl, is raising questions about the work load for officers.

Police said Kenneth Morang, 61, admitted that he fell asleep before the July 2019 crash on Route 25.

Morang often volunteered to work 90 hours a week to make more money and to help fill a large staffing shortage at the Cumberland County Jail.

Of the 128 budgeted positions at the Cumberland County Jail, 27 are unfilled. That is a 16 percent vacancy rate.

Staffing shortages are common for jails in prisons across Maine. The Penobscot County Jail in Bangor has a 13 percent job vacancy rate, and the six state prisons are down 40 officers.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said the jobs are hard to fill. They are dangerous, stressful jobs that pay about $40,000 per year before overtime.

Corrections officers serve an average of three years before moving on to law enforcement jobs or other careers.

Because of the persistent staffing shortages, overtime for officers is often forced.

University of New England students have created a program for jail staff and correction officers to help them deal with stress and other wellness issues
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PORTLAND, Maine — Students at the University of New England are spending time at the Cumberland County Jail this week.

The students have created a program for jail staff and correction officers to help them deal with several issues. The biggest one…stress.

They’re doing it not only for class credit, but because they say it’s the right the thing to do.

All week UNE students, studying to be nurses, occupational therapists and trainers, will help the staff with nutrition, exercise and stress management.

In the stress management session there were all kind of sensory activities like making slime and stress balls, by stuffing flour into a balloon.

It’s a  tool that will come in handy for corrections officer Chelsea Moore.

“There’s a lot of stress looking over your shoulder. There’s a lot of not knowing what’s going to happen at any given second. That’s probably the most tiring part of it” Moore says.

This is not the first time UNE students have been in the jail. They were there last year working with inmates, helping them with all kinds of wellness issues.

While there, they noticed the jail staff and correction officers could use some of the same services.

Kelly Pitre, who is studying occupational therapy at UNE, and will graduate next month, is spearheading this program, which is all volunteer.

“I feel like it’s our turn to take care of them” Pitre says. “I’m passionate about it, it’s a great way to put my skills to the test and help implement stress, well being, health and wellness.”

Libby Alvin, who is set to graduate from UNE’s nursing program next month says while she is busy with her school work, she looks forward to getting out in the community.

“It brings you back to why you’re doing school and why you’re working your butt off everyday in the library, to work with people and help make things better.”

A kind gesture that’s greatly appreciated.

“It’s nice to know somebody thought of us. There’s all this work, put into a whole week of them coming in and spending time with all shifts” says Moore.

Last year Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce awarded UNE students a Volunteer Appreciation Award for their work with inmates.

 

Image result for Criminal Justice Academy in VassalboroVassalboro,  Maine — A sheriff in Maine says two corrections officers have been placed on paid leave after a fellow officer was shot in an apparent accident at a police training academy.

Matthew Morrison of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department was shot in the leg in a parking lot at the Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro on Monday. He was taken by ambulance to MaineGeneral in Augusta and then flown by the Lifeflight helicopter to Maine Medical, according to CBS affiliate WAGM-TV,  and is recovering.

Police say 24-year-old Cumberland County corrections officer Matthew Begner shot Morrison. Police say the shooting took place inside a pickup truck owned by by another Cumberland County officer, 25-year-old Cody Gillis, of Brunswick.

 

Police say the 9mm gun is owned by Gillis.

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The shooting took place as the three men were leaving the academy grounds for the evening around 8 p.m. The gun had been stored in the console of Gillis’ truck.

The director of the academy says he will also review the shooting and is awaiting the final investigative report from Maine State Police. WGME-TV reports ( http://bit.ly/2sy9dWR ) that the academy director says corrections officers aren’t supposed to have guns on campus.

The Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office will also receive a copy of that report, the station reports.

State police and the Cumberland County sheriff are both investigating.

 

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Misty Romero of Limington faces several charges after police say she drove through a closed accident scene, nearly hit a Gorham police office and struck six vehicles,

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s office said in a press release that Misty Romero was charged with eluding an officer and operating under the influence following the 6:40 p.m. incident that started on Route 35 in Standish. Police said a motorist had called the county dispatch center to report the 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 truck was operating erratically. The truck stopped near Route 35 and Route 237 in Standish where traffic had backed up due to a motorcycle fire on the side of Route 35. A Gorham police officer had a brief contact with Romero before she sped off nearly striking the officer. The truck drove through the backed up traffic, striking six other vehicles including two Standish fire vehicles and losing the truck’s driver’s side tire. Deputies were able to catch up with the truck which continued to operate with three tires, sending out a large trail of sparks s. The truck traveled at 40 to 85 mph for more than three miles before it became disabled. Romero and a 40-year-old passenger were taken into custody.

The passenger was not charged. Romero was ordered held for eight hours before she could pay the $1,500 bail.

Romero was also arrested on several other charges, police said.

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Life truly is a fairy tale, my adventure setting sail.

My triumph like Hercules – I brought Goliath to his knees.

What makes victory ever so sweet, is the learning that comes with defeat.

 

Never life’s mamba scares me a way, never a night without a day.

Never known love without a tear; never known courage without some fear.

Never known conviction without some doubt;

Can’t have “with” unless you have “without.”

Never known magic without some rules; never seen things built without some tools.

Never a full moon that didn’t wane:

If there’s a loss, then there’s a gain.

 

I grew an eye to make me the beholder, so beauty is beheld as I get older.

 

I speak of balance – yet don’t hold back!  If it’s a noble cause, the nobly attack!

One day there will come an end; can you say that you were the world’s friend?

 

There is perfection in the number seven;

I walked through Hell, so that I could know Heaven.

– Kabir

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The Maine Department of Corrections has intercepted more Suboxone sublingual film — thin strips of a prescription drug that are easy to hide and can be dissolved on the tongue — than any other contraband smuggled into Maine jails.

Research by Portland-based CBS affiliate WGME’s investigative reporter Marissa Bodnar found that inmates are regularly trying to sneak in and abuse the drug, which can be prescribed as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce told WGME Suboxone strips have been found in between sheets of cardboard and in the folds of envelopes. Attempts to smuggle in drugs also have prompted the jail to limit contact between inmates and visitors, leaving inmates to see loved ones from behind a sheet of glass.

“We’ve banned cards from coming in,” Joyce said. “We take photocopies of greeting cards.”

Suboxone is a branded prescription drug that includes the active ingredients buprenorphine and naloxone.

Addiction treatment specialists have said Suboxone can be an effective medication to help those battling addiction to heroin and other opiates and opioids, if used correctly.

Dr. Mark Publicker, a longtime Maine addiction specialist, told WGME that inmates should have regular access to medication and therapy.

“Any of the [federally] approved medications should be used,” he said. “We need to develop systems [to create better access to addiction treatment for inmates] and understand, right now at any given time, the figure is over 80,000 prisoners in state and federal levels have opiate addiction and are not being treated.”

Bodnar found that, in addition to the Suboxone strips, heroin, marijuana, methadone, Oxycodone and tobacco, among other contraband items, have been confiscated by corrections officials in Maine jails.

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