Drugs focus of prison inquiry; Employees suspected of smuggling drugs to ring of inmates; Prostitution also is probed


State officials are investigating suspected drug smuggling by prison employees to a powerful ring of inmates at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

Officials said yesterday that they were also investigating the possibility that female corrections officers sold sex to inmates.

"We are definitely looking at that," said George B. Brosan, deputy secretary of the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "Prostitution is not only a violation of law, but within the correction system, any sexual contact between inmates and staff is prohibited."

The latest disclosures come two days after state corrections officials raided the prison, transferred 19 inmates to the state's Supermax prison in Baltimore and placed on administrative duty three corrections officers who failed preliminary drug tests.

Officials began focusing their investigation on the inmates and guards after 12 percent of the prison's population of 1,200 inmates tested positive for drug use last spring -- much higher than the statewide average of 3.7 percent.

To sustain that drug trade, officials said, inmates needed the help of guards and other employees.

"There is no method or avenue of entry into the system that would have been able to maintain that high a level of drugs if it weren't for a few employees bringing it in," Brosan said.

After beginning their probe, investigators quickly focused their attention on an inmate serving a life sentence for a 1979 murder in Baltimore.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the inmate and most of the 18 other prisoners removed Saturday were suspected of leading a criminal enterprise that focused on drugs -- both behind bars and in Baltimore. That ring also might have been involved in prostitution, officials said.

None of the inmates has been charged with any crimes, and officials said they are still gathering evidence, as well as interviewing inmates and prison employees.

"Our main goal was to bring management of the prison back to the proper level," Brosan said.

During the raid Saturday, officials also recovered homemade knives, prison-made alcohol and hypodermic needles.

Officials speculated most illegal drugs were flushed down toilets as they conducted their searches.

"We could hear the water running," Brosan said. "We knew some of those drugs were going down the sewer."

Pub Date: 2/16/99

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