A corrections officer whose job includes delivering soap and potato chips at the Baltimore City Detention Center was arrested yesterday and charged with trying to smuggle heroin to a prisoner.
Ricky Hall, 22, who has worked at the prison for four months, was suspended without pay and was in state police custody yesterday awaiting a bail hearing.
Officials said they have begun questioning prisoners and guards to see whether the men might be part of a drug network.
Authorities said Mr. Hall was trying to deliver heroin to an inmate charged by federal authorities with being a major drug trafficker.
"That tells us even more," said LaMont Flanagan, commissioner of the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services.
Prison officials announced the arrest in time to allow local news media to photograph the officer, still wearing his corrections cap, as a state police trooper led him out of the jail in handcuffs.
"We want the message to get through to employees that if you are caught with drugs, not only will you be terminated, you will be arrested," Mr. Flanagan said. "And you will be embarrassed, because we will make it a public matter."
Mr. Flanagan said 10 employees have been arrested for drug trafficking at the prison since he took charge in 1991.
"The easiest way for drugs to come in is through employees," he said, adding that illegal narcotics are "a problem for penal institutions all over the country."
He said visitors and packages are always searched; employees routinely can get into work only by walking past a police dog who sits when he smells drugs.
Mr. Hall was arrested yesterday about 10 a.m. Officials said he was delivering items from the commissary, such as chips, soda and personal items to P Section. Usually, supply officers turn the items over to the correctional officers, the only people allowed direct contact with the prisoners.
Mr. Flanagan said Mr. Hall complained that one inmate signed a form in the wrong place. Forms must be filled out before items can be delivered. Mr. Hall then requested permission to go to the inmate's cell.
The correctional officer in charge of the section denied the request, grew suspicious and called for a security chief, who searched the employee. Officials said they found a folded dollar bill lined with heroin in the employee's wallet.
State police arrested Mr. Hall, who was charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Court records show that Mr. Hall has no prior arrests in Maryland.
After several hours of questioning at the Golden Ring state police barracks, Mr. Hall was to see a court commissioner and then be taken back to the detention center -- this time as an inmate -- to await a hearing before a judge.