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Inmate walks off kitchen job, is captured nearby

June 03, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown inmate allegedly walked away from the prison kitchen Thursday and was missing for nearly eight hours before he was found on state-owned property that houses three prisons south of Hagerstown.

John Gange, 44, whose last known address is in Pasadena, Md., allegedly left the minimum-security kitchen area at the prison complex on Roxbury Road at about 9:45 a.m., according to a news release issued by the Maryland Division of Correction.

Division spokesman George Gregory said Gange was found about 5:30 p.m. near a lake on the state-owned property and was taken into custody without incident.

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Thirteen of the county's public schools implemented modified lockdown procedures in response to a request from the Maryland State Police, according to Carol Mowen, public information officer for Washington County Public Schools.

The schools included Fountain Rock and Greenbrier elementary schools, schools in Williamsport and Boonsboro, and South Hagerstown High School, Mowen said in a phone message Thursday afternoon.

According to Mowen, the exterior doors of schools in those areas were locked and children were kept inside for recess and physical education classes. Classes that were away on field trips were alerted to the situation, Mowen said.

The lockdown lasted from about 10:05 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mowen said.

Gregory said there is no fence near the kitchen area. He said only inmates who have been deemed an unlikely flight threat are permitted to work there.

"Each person is screened for security levels ... (Gange) was properly screened and (perceived to be) less of a threat," Gregory said.

Gange, who is serving a 25-year sentence for assault, has a scheduled release date of November 2009, the release said.

Gregory said correctional officers who were working Thursday morning "didn't know he was missing and act on it accordingly." He said the incident was under investigation and that reprimands could be possible if there was a preventable breach of security.

Gregory said correctional officers, local authorities and Maryland State Police were among those who searched for Gange. The number of people who actively searched for Gange or his motive for allegedly leaving were not released Thursday.

Gregory said division officials will continue to review the incident.

"We're always looking to do things better. If changes need to be made, they will be made," he said.

Ray Lushbaugh, a correctional officer and shop steward for Teamsters Local 103, said he believes it is the first time there has been a "walk-off" in several years, though he could not be specific about the last incident. Lushbaugh said Thursday's incident "could have happened anywhere."

"Any other jail has the same, minimum-security classifications. They're subjected to walking off at any time," Lushbaugh said.

Staff Writer Karen Hanna contributed to this story.

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