Prison authorities are investigating whether heroin smuggled into the Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown sickened or caused strange behavior in five inmates.
Three of the inmates were taken to a local hospital after they were discovered unresponsive in their cells Tuesday, according to Priscilla Doggett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction.
She said test results have confirmed that drugs were in the system of two of the inmates. The test results of the other three inmates are pending, she said.
Doggett would not identify the drug believed to be involved, but a source familiar with the investigation said heroin was suspected.
"The institution is currently doing a vigorous investigation to try to determine the source of any narcotics that may have come into the institution and when security might have been compromised and it entered," Doggett said.
The three inmates who were taken by ambulance to a local hospital were examined there and later transferred to the infirmary at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown, according to corrections officials. They remained under observation at the prison infirmary yesterday.
Doggett said the two inmates who were not hospitalized also were tested for drugs and other intoxicants because of "suspicious behavior" that attracted the attention of prison staff.
Corrections administrators have said that they are tightening procedures to try to reduce the flow of drugs and other contraband into Maryland's prison system.
The Sun reported last month that heroin, marijuana, pornographic videos, tobacco, cell phones and top-shelf liquor are routinely being smuggled past security checkpoints and into the state's prisons.
The finding was based on a review of correctional department reports that detailed contraband seized in the state's largest prisons over a 10-month period through April.