TOWSON, Md. - The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services resumed visits and mail at correctional facilities after searching and finding no harm related to inmate sicknesses.
24 hours after dozens of prison guards, nurses and inmates suffered symptoms of exposure to unknown drugs in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Maryland didn't want to take any chances.
With 18,000 inmates and almost 6,000 correctional officers in state-run facilities here, Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer took preventive action.
"Right now we have temporarily halted delivering mail to the inmates. We also have stopped visitation,” said Moyer, “When we have issues like this, it's all about the safety of our correctional officers, our staff, the inmates and the community at large."
Ohio now reports a heroin and fentanyl mixture caused its illnesses, and Pennsylvania continues to investigate a liquid synthetic drug that may be absorbed through the skin.
While Suboxone remains Maryland's number one contraband smuggled through the mail, Moyer says there has been recent evidence of synthetic marijuana slipping through as well.
"We had some incidents with K2 Spice and basically they soak the envelopes and the letters, themselves, in K2 and that is how that enters the facility," said Moyer.
As evidenced by the Black Guerilla case in Baltimore five years ago and an Eastern Shore case that followed, contraband is big business behind bars, and with the aid of drug-sniffing dogs, Moyer says corrections workers will inspect every piece of mail to prevent drug exposure.
Maryland has closely monitored the investigations in both Ohio and Pennsylvania in hopes of the temporary bans being lifted as the holiday weekend approaches.
"Labor Day is coming up and we think it's important for the inmates to receive their mail and to have visitors,” said Moyer, “so we'll look at everything based on intelligence, some analysis that's being done in Ohio, and we'll make a decision to put our regular practices back into place."