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Union backs drug probe of officers at prison


The union representing employees at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup is backing efforts by state officials to investigate corrections officers suspected of smuggling drugs into the prison.

"The union supports 100 percent what [officials] are doing," said Sgt. Bernard Ralph, a corrections officer and president of the local union, noting that drug activity -- by inmates or staff -- contributes to an unsafe environment.

On Saturday, state public safety officials staged a raid at the House of Correction and transferred 19 inmates to the so-called Supermax prison in Baltimore. Three corrections officers were reassigned to administrative duty pending completion of drug tests.

Local 1678 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union represents 700 corrections employees in the Jessup area, Ralph said.

Prison officials allege that the 19 inmates -- led by a man imprisoned for nearly two decades in a 1979 Baltimore murder -- were exerting too much control at the prison and creating fear in other inmates and corrections officers.

On Monday, officials said they were investigating how large amounts of drugs entered the prison. In recent months, 13 percent of the House of Correction's 1,200 inmates tested positive for drug use -- much higher than the statewide average of 3.7 percent.

To sustain that drug trade, officials said, inmates would need the help of corrections officers and other employees.

"The officers are excited to see what happened Saturday," Ralph said. "We didn't hear any griping about it at all. This is something we needed."

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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