Two guards and a paramedic at the Montgomery County Detention Center resignged this week after being told they were suspected of giving marijuana to inmates. One of the guards, a man, also was suspected of having sex with a female inmate.

The resignations followed by about a week the resignation of another male guard who was suspected of having sex with a female inmate in one of the center's classrooms.

"It is very rare that we run across something like this," said Sam Sexton, deputy director of the country's Department of Corrections. "It hurts our staff's pride and confidence."

Sexton declined to name the guards and the paramedic. He called the evidence against them "hearsay and circumstantial in nature. The rumors were rampant that they were involved in the drug scene, but we don't have any physical evidence."

Six inmates who either spread the rumors or were mentioned in them were given polygraph tests, Sexton said. The results of the tests were "mixed," he said, but indicated that some of the immates who made allegations problably were telling the truth.

The two guards resigned yesterday and the paramedic Tuesday after Sexton told them of the allegations. All of them denied wrongdoing, but offered to resign after Sexton "laid out their options," either resign or be the subject of continuing investigation.

Police are continuing to investigate the allegations against the paramedic, who had been on administrative leave since last week.

The guards and the paramedic were accused of giving marijuana to inmates in the hallways of the center -- the official name of the county jail -- when the inmates walked to or from classrooms or the jail library. "We think it happened particulary in the early mornings, when there weren't many staff memebers around," Sexton said.

The male guard who also was suspected of having sex with a female inmate allegedly did so in one of the center's classrooms. A similar allegation was made against the guard who resigned a week ago.

Sexton said he first heard of the rumors about 12 days ago, after a visitor tried to bring an inmate a package of underwear that also contained the drugs PCP and Valium. A guard who inspected and confiscated the package told Sexton it contained drugs and then, Sexton said, he began hearing rumors about guards being "involved in the drug scene." He refused to say who brought the rumors to his attention.

The center, on Seven Locks Road in Rockville, has 74 guards and 300 inmates, 25 of them women. They are either awaiting trial or serving sentences of up to 18 months.