File photo of Two Bridges Regional Jail. Credit: File Photo | Lincoln County News

WISCASSET, Maine — At least 11 inmates at Two Bridges Regional Jail have been indicted or sentenced this month for allegedly trafficking Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, while incarcerated at Two Bridges Regional Jail.

According to court documents, various forms of Suboxone were smuggled into the jail through a number of methods, including between the layers of photographs.

Last week, a Lincoln County grand jury indicted five inmates on Class C felony trafficking in prison contraband at the Wiscasset jail, as well as misdemeanors including conspiracy and violating conditions of release, the Lincoln County News reported.

Those indicted include Brian Bennett, 37, of Waldoboro, Jordan L. Bennett, 31, of Rumford, Heather R. McAlister, 28, of Mexico, Jonathan E. Smith, 30, of Carthage, and Russell C. Smith, 53, of Bryant Pond.

A crackdown on Suboxone smuggling started last fall, when in November, as part of a plea agreement, Elizabeth A. Staples, 25, of Topsham, was sentenced in Lincoln County Superior Court to 36 days for trafficking in prison contraband, among other crimes, the Lincoln County News reported.

In December, Brendon McLellan, 31, of Newcastle and Edgecomb, was sentenced to nine months in jail for the same crime, among others, and James Ryan Witham, 37, of Belfast was sentenced to 60 days in jail for trafficking in Suboxone.

The following month, Douglass Cote, 29, of Lewiston, was sentenced to five months in jail and Lisa L. Paige, 51, of Belmont, was sentenced to two years with all but four months suspended for the same crime committed at Two Bridges.

According to prosecutors, the inmates participated in various schemes to get the drugs into the jail. In one case, a woman came to visit Cote in November and, while passing Bennett in the prison yard, Bennett told her to put the Suboxone and a needle in the women’s bathroom in the lobby, underneath the plastic liner, according to court documents. Staff subsequently located the drugs.

In another case, an inmate on a work crew allegedly retrieved Suboxone left for him in the Porta-Potty at a Nobleboro baseball field.

In a third instance, Jordan Bennett allegedly sent mail to McAlister, who at the time was not incarcerated, containing a letter and a photograph — with Suboxone strips inserted into the photograph between the glossy and the paper layers, according to documents.

McAlister also alleged that a correctional officer at the jail “turn[ed] a blind eye to alleged drug use and trafficking,” and her attorney, Matthew Morgan, wrote in court documents that discovery from the case showed that Bennett “reported that he had a friend who was a ‘cop’ inside the jail.”

Morgan wrote in documents that another person involved in the conspiracy told staff of a “dirty [corrections officer]” and that videotape exists of that guard allegedly inappropriately administering a drug test to Bennett.

Morgan did not return a phone call this week.

Detective Jared G. Mitkus of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an Aug. 4, 2017, affidavit that, according to tapes of phone calls, Bennett told McAlister in a July phone call, “It’s nice to have cops on the inside, baby.”

Jonathan Smith allegedly told Mitkus in August that Two Bridges has a Suboxone problem and “you can’t get away from it in here.”

Two Bridges Administrator James Bailey said Wednesday that he couldn’t speak about any particular staff member, but he said, “No current staff member is under any type of investigation” by prison administrators.

Drugs “are always a problem in any correctional facility,” Bailey said, adding that he didn’t know whether the problem is worse at Two Bridges or worse now at the jail than previously.

But he said, “That they’re being indicted tells me we’re catching them.”

In December, Bailey filled a long-vacant special projects officer position, hiring Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Levon Travis. Among the responsibilities of that position are investigating items that are dropped off or mailed to prisoners.

Bailey, who served as acting administrator from October 2016 until he was appointed to the permanent position in November 2017, said the position had been vacant because staffing at the jail has been a “huge issue,” and the priority of those officers he did employ was to ensure inmate safety.

Jonathan Liberman, who serves as district attorney for Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties, as well as Knox and Waldo counties, said Wednesday he could not comment on any potential investigations into Suboxone smuggling at the jail or any investigation into a guard being involved.

Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry confirmed on Tuesday that an investigation into contraband at the prison continues, but declined to comment further because he had not yet been briefed.

“You do hear from people that it’s easier to get drugs in jail than on the street,” attorney David Paris, who represents Brian Bennett, said Wednesday.

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