Two D.C. Department of Corrections officers were arrested at Lorton Reformatory yesterday and charged with conspiring to sell cocaine to inmates at the prison, federal agents reported.
Mark Russ, 28, a three-year Corrections Department employe, and Bernard Harris, 45, a nine-year employe, were arrested about 7:30 a.m. when they reported to work at the medium-security Occoquan facility, according to Drug Enforcement Administration agent Bill Schnepper.
Each was charged with distributing cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a sealed indictment returned Monday by an Alexandria federal court grand jury, he said. Nine packets of a white powder that were taped to Russ' leg were confiscated during the arrest, he said.
Also charged in the indictment and arrested yesterday was Luis Canino, 26, of Locust Grove, Va., Schnepper said. Canino was not further identified, but prosecutors said he had no connection with the Corrections Department.
All three men were being held in lieu of $50,000 bond at the Fairfax County jail pending arraignment Monday.
The arrests come amid increasing charges from corrections officers, union officials and inmates that drug trafficking at the institution, located in southern Fairfax County, is a major problem and that officers at the prison sometimes supply inmates with drugs.
Last week, a former inmate who says that he developed a heroin dependency while at the prison's maximum-security facility asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to sentence him to a drug rehabilitation program instead of returning him to the facility for violating his probation.
In a hearing last Friday, Mitchell Jones said that obtaining heroin in the prison is "easy, just like on the streets . . . . Officers even bring it in." A maximum-security inmate testified at the hearing that he had seen Jones inject heroin in his cell.
Meanwhile, Corrections Department spokesman LeRoy Anderson confirmed yesterday that an officer from the prison's central facility resigned March 16 after allegations that she had tried to smuggle drugs into the maximum-security facility, where her son was incarcerated. It could not be learned if the woman was charged.
Bernard Demczuk, political director of the American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1550, which represents corrections workers, said, "We cannot support any individual who compromises our safety.
"Once employes compromise the safety with drugs, they can be blackmailed by inmates into bringing in weapons, such as pistols, that could lead to the death of an employe . . . . That, in fact, is the way weapons enter institutions."
An officer from the maximum-security facility who asked not to be named said yesterday that, in addition to guards and visitors smuggling drugs into the facility, a variety of "scams" are used to get drugs inside.
For example, he said, inmates at the central facility, near the maximum-security facility, slit open handballs, put drugs inside, then slap the ball over a wall and into a maximum-security courtyard, where inmates pick them up.
Corrections spokesman Anderson said that he would not comment. "Unless someone has the guts and faces me eyeball to eyeball, I'm not going to comment on anonymous allegations . . . . If these things are true and it is coming from the staff in this department, they are remiss in their duties for not taking actions themselves."
A 1984 series of stories in The Washington Post that described how drugs were being smuggled into the prison prompted a crackdown on drug trafficking there.
D.C. Mayor Marion Barry announced that any Lorton visitors caught with drugs would be arrested and banned from visiting the prison.
Anderson said yesterday that 200 persons have been banned from Lorton since January 1983.
However, he said, no figures were available on how many visitors have been arrested because a plan to deputize officers so they could make arrests was not implemented because of legal problems.
Anderson said that Department of Corrections head James Palmer initiated the investigation that lead to yesterday's arrests "because of his insistence to get narcotics out of the institutions."
The indictment, which also charges Canino with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distributing cocaine, alleges that he supplied cocaine to Harris, and that Harris in turn distributed the cocaine to Russ.
The indictment says that Russ and Harris used their positions in the Corrections Department "to introduce narcotics and other controlled substances into . . . Lorton."
It says that Harris and Russ then distributed the substances "to inmates located therein."
The charges, according to the indictment, stem from a Nov. 7 sale of cocaine that Russ allegedly made to an undercover DEA agent, and a Nov. 14 sale he is alleged to have made to an inmate at Occoquan.