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10 employees strip-searched at MCTC

August 14, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A special Division of Correction Contraband Interdiction Team conducted strip searches Tuesday of about 10 employees at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown.

The searches came after wand tests indicated traces of drugs, a prison official said.

No contraband was found either on employees or in their vehicles.

The CIT was brought in at the request of Warden D. Kenneth Horning, Division of Correction Commissioner Michael Stouffer said Wednesday afternoon.

Horning was not in his office Wednesday, a woman who answered the phone said.

The warden's request came after several recent incidents during which contraband was found in the prison, Stouffer said.

"He wanted to make sure his institution was as contraband-free as possible, and we responded," Stouffer said.

The Maryland Classified Employees Association is checking into the situation to determine if the searches were conducted appropriately.

MCEA was looking into the matter to ensure it was handled professionally and did not destroy anyone's dignity, said Ron Smith, a labor relations specialist for MCEA.

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Smith acknowledged that prison officials have the right to search anyone entering one of their institutions.

One woman who was searched felt the search was handled unprofessionally and that upsetting remarks were made during the search, Smith said.

Only one or two of the employees who were searched were correctional officers, Smith said. The others were case managers and other noncustody personnel, he said.

The employees were completely stripped during the search, he said.

"I know our staff are good staff," said Stouffer, who was warden at MCTC for seven years. "Folks have to know they're safe working and being in our prisons."

Tuesday's search was an extension of a trial program the DOC implemented in the Baltimore area during March and April in an attempt to reduce contraband making its way into those prisons, Stouffer said.

Prison officials have seen some "positive signs" as a result of the searches in Baltimore, he said.

Everyone through the door of the employee checkpoint Tuesday beginning around 6:30 a.m. was scanned, Stouffer said. If the scan indicated anything, they were searched, he said.

"Sometimes, it's not convenient to be a correctional employee when we have to do these things," Stouffer said.

But, he said, the searches are for the good of all.

The ion machine used for the scans is sound technology, operated by certified people, Stouffer said. As far as he knew, all proper procedures were followed, Stouffer said.

Representatives from the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees spoke Wednesday afternoon with Stouffer, AFSCME spokesman Joe Lawrence said.

While AFSCME is opposed to anyone bringing contraband into the prisons, it questioned how well thought-out the searches were, he said.

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