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BY DENNIS HOEY, STAFF WRITER, Portland Press Herald

A former Portland resident with less than two months left on his sentence for unlawful sexual contact died Tuesday morning at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

The inmate was identified as 65-year-old Stephen Burton, News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ TV) said, citing the Maine Department of Corrections.

Burton had been serving a sentence of more than seven years for unlawful sexual contact, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Burton died around 6:30 a.m. He was scheduled to be released on Jan 27.

The Attorney General’s Office and the state Medical Examiner’s Office were notified.

(Karma.)

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McDonald Plea

Write to Kenny via:
Maine State Prison – Kenneth McDonald – MDOC #114427
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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The Hidden Poor of Freeport, U.S.A.

Kenneth McDonald

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Maine State Prison – Kenneth McDonald – MDOC #114427
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600
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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.

On a recent Tuesday morning, a group of Maine State Prison inmates, along with prison administrators, corrections officers and state legislators, gathered around tables in the facility’s visitation room.

An agenda was passed out, an inmate set up a laptop to take minutes of the meeting, then a strangely democratic process got underway.

“All right, welcome everyone. Today we’ve got a pretty full agenda and a pretty tight time frame,” Warden Matthew Magnusson said as the group sat down to discuss matters ranging from pod updates to reentry planning initiatives.

It was the monthly meeting of the Prisoner Advisory Council, a group established earlier this year to bring all levels of the prison population and administration together to talk about policies, problems and potential solutions.

The council is the first of its kind in the Maine Department of Corrections system, according to Magnusson, and it’s already increasing communication, building relationships and working toward changing the system.

These prison meetings are where Rep. Bill Plucker, I-Warren, and Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, initially learned about the negative impacts a critical shortage of corrections officers is having on both staff and inmates.

As a result, the lawmakers submitted an emergency bill aiming to increase the compensation for corrections officers in Maine in order to help with staff recruitment. The Legislative Council approved the emergency bill request last month, and the bill could get a public hearing before the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee early next year on its way to becoming law.

“What’s going on right here in this room is special. Where you have upper-level administration all the way down to residents of different units participating in a discussion that includes outside representatives,” said Leo, the inmate taking the meeting minutes. “We’re able to have real discussions about the issues that are going on in this prison … to put [those issues] on the table and have them be heard by people who can enact change.”

The Bangor Daily News was invited to the October Prison Council Advisory meeting, but is not using the full names of the inmates in order to prevent further trauma from being inflicted on their victims.

‘It’s Not Us Versus Them’

The council is composed of 15 inmates representing various groups that exist within the prison such as veterans, people of color, those in recovery, prisoners from religious backgrounds and those who are serving long sentences.

Prison administration officials used to meet separately with these groups but felt that bringing representatives from each to one table would have a better result.

“Together, along with staff, we’re trying to solve a lot of these underlying issues at the prison. What we’ve found is through a restorative justice circle, we are kind of working toward one goal,” Magnusson said.

Aside from prison administration, staff and inmates, and representatives from outside groups, such as the Maine Prisoner Reentry Network, attend the meetings, bring in their expertise and find areas for collaboration.

Topics that dominated the recent meeting included preparing inmates for reentry into the community as well as breaking down the stigma that comes with being incarcerated. A recent debate that played out in nearby Rockland over the placement of a reentry house in a residential neighborhood was referenced as one of the hurdles inmates face upon release.

“We want to convey to communities that people are trying to better themselves with the programs offered [in prison]. We think it’s important to let society know that there are people in here who made mistakes. They did their punishment now it’s time for them to put their life in order,” said Foster, president of the prison’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter.

Whether it’s a large societal issue such as reentry, or more day-to-day issues — such as prison programming — the meetings serve as a communication conduit.

Jeff, an inmate working with the Maine Prisoner Reentry Network to prepare inmates for release, said the meetings help share information not just between inmates and administration, but to others as well.

“These meetings create a conversation afterwards among ourselves. ‘Why don’t we work on this together, or do this together, to get this outcome,’” he said. “This meeting is groundbreaking. It throws the information out to both sides, to the administration and the inmate population, to help us understand how we can improve the culture of the prison.”

In her 15 years visiting the prison through her involvement with the NAACP, Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, said the Prisoner Advisory Council meetings are one of the best things she has seen happen there.

“To have this combination of input around the table and to feel perfectly empowered to add your voice to the discussion has been incredibly beneficial. It’s beneficial because there is some acknowledgement that the diversity of input will make the best result,” Talbot Ross said. “It’s not an us versus them. It’s ‘What are we going to do to move [the Department of Corrections] forward?’”

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Kenneth McDonald

Write to Kenny via:
Maine State Prison – Kenneth McDonald – MDOC #114427
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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danny2
Write to Prince via:
Maine State Prison – Daniel Fortune – MDOC #86753
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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Write to Dirty via:

Maine State Prison – Michael McQuade – MDOC #82448

807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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Write to Kenny via:
Maine State Prison – Kenneth McDonald – MDOC #114427
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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danny2
Write to Prince via:
Maine State Prison – Daniel Fortune – MDOC #86753
807 Cushing Road – Warren, Maine 04864-4600

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Political Prisoners

Welcome to the blog from inmates of Maine's jails and prisons.

In collaboration with the Holistic Recovery Project, the Political Prisoners Blog provides a prisoner's view into what's happening at Maine's correctional facilities.

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