CBC Radio News has uncovered information that shows one of Canada's maximum security prisons has become an out-of-control drug dealing centre run by gangs of prisoners and a number of corrupt staff.

In the past four months, CBC Radio has spoken to dozens of inmates and corrections workers who revealed disturbing details of events inside the 160-year-old prison's walls.

Those include drug trafficking, selling booze and the sale of confidential information. Some guards even paid prisoners to beat up other inmates.

Police and senior corrections officials have been investigating some of these allegations for more than two years.

Shortly after CBC Radio began its investigation, nine guards were either fired or suspended. So far, no criminal charges have been laid. But insiders tell CBC Radio they're not convinced the investigation will ever root out the problems.

The investigation known as Correct Zero began in March, 1999. It involved several inmate informers.

"I think at one point I was numb, I was so deep in the game," said one informant, who was serving time for armed robbery.

By law, the man cannot be identified because he is an informer. He told CBC Radio News that under instructions from special prison investigators, he bought and sold booze, marijuana, cocaine and heroin through some guards, giving them a cut.

"Bringing him like, a few hundred dollars every other day, or something like that," he said. "And he started bringing me pot and more pot and more pot."

And those guards would warn him whenever security searches were scheduled.

The informant also arranged to buy confidential information about other inmates in Canadian prisons, placing those prisoners at risk. And he brokered deals at the request of some guards to have certain inmates beaten up. "This guy offered me an ounce to put a contract on somebody so I would break his jaw, or something like that, or get someone to do the job."

So far, the man says police have paid him more than $15,000 for his services. He also received special preference for family visits and was moved to a minimum security prison. He says he agreed to do the work because in Kingston Penitentiary, it was the only way to survive.

"Kingston Pen is like the garbage can of the garbage can, y'know, and there's a lot of lifers there. And I felt a big part of my life was in danger, you know?"

Other inmates have told CBC Radio similar stories. They say Kingston Penitentiary is out of control and has been for years. They claim guards regularly flout the law and that gangs of prisoners control many parts of the prison.

Bill Stoddart has been in Kingston pen for the past 14 years. He talks about his first-hand experience with a theft ring run by the guards.

He says that it dealt with stolen construction and mechanical supplies and that senior prison management knew about it.

"Theft here is not just a small business. It's an organized enterprise," Stoddart said. "I remember there had been memos written by the warden telling the staff they had to reduce their theft in front of us because it sets a bad example."

Senior Correctional Service of Canada officials declined to talk about the situation at Kingston Penitentiary. The warden says he wants to wait until all the guards have been dealt with.