For three months last year at the D.C. jail, Correctional Officer Kimberly Morris sat alone in a long, narrow office known as the surveillance room. Her job was to spot unusual activity on 12 closed-circuit television monitors, wired to cameras placed throughout the building. The most unusual activity, however, was taking place inside the surveillance room.

On many days, Morris said in an interview, she smoked crack cocaine. Some days, she smoked several times on her 4 p.m. to midnight shift. "I wouldn't even take a lunch break when I was in there," she said. "I'd bring my lunch. I'd bring my rock, my pipe. I'd have my food. My soda. Get paid {for eight hours' work} and get high at the same time."

She never got caught. Detection was unlikely. The only window in the surveillance room is a one-way glass in the outer wall; Morris could see out, but a passerby had to come close and stare intently through the 2-by-3-foot glass to make out what was happening inside.

When Morris wanted to smoke crack, she said, she positioned herself in the corner of the room, away from the window and out of the line of sight. She carefully withdrew her pipe and crack from their hiding place in her bra. With her back to the glass so that her broad shoulders further shielded her hands from view, she flicked her butane lighter and melted the rock-like crack in the bowl of her pipe. She worried that the flame, which she had to keep going for several minutes, would catch someone's attention. It never did. (The jail's command center, where three officers generally work, is nearby; but the angle and the one-way glass make it difficult to see much of the inside of the surveillance room.)

Morris, 27, said it was easy to bring her drug supplies into the jail, despite the security checks that all employees and visitors must undergo upon entering. "They don't pat you down for real," she said. "I used to bring everything I needed with me to work. My coke, my pipe."

Jail officials were not aware of Morris's drug use. William M. Plaut, who was the jail's administrator from September 1987 until last June, said he believed that stringent security measures, such as strip searches of officers, weren't worth the damage they would do to morale. "A person who wants to traffic in contraband is going to find a way to beat you, I don't care what you do," he said.Dominated by Drugs

Morris talked about her drug addiction during several interviews in late January and early February, including one at the kitchen table at her sister's house. Her mother listened as Morris described 15 years of drug use -- experimenting with marijuana as a seventh-grader at Hart Junior High School in Southeast Washington, freebasing and snorting cocaine at age 19, selling cocaine and PCP at age 20 to finance her drug habit, regularly smoking crack with other officers after going to work at the jail in late 1986. Her drug use became the dominant factor in an already busy life -- marriage in 1979, three children by 1986, a series of steady jobs.

At several points, her mother interrupted to ask whether Morris was being too candid, cautioning her that a newspaper article about her lifestyle might be embarrassing and cause her to lose her job.

Morris turned to her mother, her hands resting steadily on the table. "Momma, I don't care about any of that," she said. "I'm sick of the way I've been living. I just want to tell the truth and I don't care what happens."

The surveillance room wasn't the only assignment that gave her a chance to use drugs while on duty, Morris said. She also smoked crack while assigned for three months last year to one of the sensitive floor control posts that regulate access to the jail's cellblocks. In that job, officers sit in a glass-enclosed cubicle and operate electronic gates to allow people in and out of the cellblocks. It can be busy; employees delivering meals or officers returning inmates to their cells shout out their destinations to the floor control officer, who then opens the appropriate gate.

Morris was assigned to the third-floor booth. When she wanted to smoke crack, she said, she telephoned the jail's command center on the ground floor to say that she needed to go to the bathroom. Hiding in a stall, she extracted her pipe and smoked a rock of crack. Meanwhile, the floor control box was left untended. "I never smoked with anyone" inside the jail, she said. "I only smoked by myself."

The crack gave her a feeling of euphoria, a feeling that she could handle anything. Sometimes, while on a crack binge, she stayed awake three or four days before crashing. Nothing ever went wrong while she was on duty in the surveillance room or floor control, she said, although once she was accused of trying to smuggle crack to an inmate inside the jail. She denied it and the matter was dropped.

In addition to smoking crack in the surveillance room, Morris said she had sex there with several male officers and supervisors, some of whom she named. According to other officers interviewed, the room's physical design and relative isolation made it an attractive place for sexual trysts.

Sometimes, she said, she and two or three male officers went to local motels and had all-night parties involving sex and drugs. It was understood, she said, that the male officers would supply the drugs; sometimes, she received cash instead. "I can't even count the number of times now that I've been out with them," she said. Altogether, she named 10 officers and supervisors with whom she said she smoked crack.

A girlfriend introduced her to crack in February 1986, several months before she applied to work at the jail. She liked the euphoric high and became a frequent user, buying $30 and $50 rocks from friends she knew from her days of dealing in cocaine.

She said she kept her crack habit to herself when she started working at the jail in November 1986, but it didn't take long for someone to approach her. She was outside the jail after work one day in early 1987 when a supervisor came up to her.

"I needed a ride . . . {This supervisor} asked me, 'Do you smoke rocks?' "

Morris said she pretended to be insulted. "Naw. Why?"

The supervisor said, " 'Cause I was going to page my friend to get some."

"For who?" Morris said.

"Yours truly."

She said he contacted his friend, another officer at the jail, who brought several rocks of crack to a motel. The three "smoked crack half the night. Made love half the night. And then I went home," Morris said.Turning Life Around

Morris's life -- always chaotic as she juggled her job, her family and her drug addiction -- fell apart in December. She left her family three days before Christmas, moved to a crack den at Second Street and Mississippi Avenue SE, went on a crack binge and failed to show up for work for four weeks. One day in mid-January, sick at what her life had become, she smashed her pipe and threw the pieces in the trash, she said.

On Jan. 22, vowing to quit using drugs, she returned to work. A jail official notified her that the department had decided to fire her for going AWOL.

At first, Morris wanted to fight the dismissal through the officers union, Teamsters Local 1714, as some officers have done successfully. Morris knew that the system tolerated absenteeism, which is extensive at the jail. At the same time, she also knew that jail officials use absenteeism as a wedge to fire someone who might be a drug abuser. Jail officials rarely try to fire someone specifically for drug abuse, which requires more extensive evidence.

Soon after The Washington Post interviewed her in January and February, Morris entered drug treatment at an inpatient facility. She left after two weeks, before she completed the program. But during a recent conversation, she said she had not touched any drugs since she demolished her pipe in January.

In March, she resigned from the jail. She wanted to avoid a lengthy appeal process, get away from the crowd of drug-abusing officers and put her life back together. "I'm tired {of this lifestyle}," she said. "I been doing drugs for years."

NEXT: The Kentucky Fried Chicken caper

During the last two years, Washington Post reporter Leon Dash conducted an in-depth examination of drug use at the D.C. jail, interviewing 65 employees and moving freely throughout the jail with permission from the Department of Corrections. Seven current and former employees agreed to speak publicly about their drug use, hoping their accounts might reverse the trend they see at the jail; six others talked about their drug use, but declined to be identified. Corrections officials, while saying that drug abuse is a problem at the jail, said the level is no higher than in any other government agency.