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Florida Smoking Ban Scaled Back as Black-Market for Cigarettes Grows

Florida Smoking Ban Scaled Back as Black-Market for Cigarettes Grows

by David Reutter

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has partially reversed it blanket ban on tobacco products, allowing prisoners at work release centers to possess up to 10 packs of cigarettes.

“The decisions to eliminate smoking and tobacco use was made to reduce the medical cost associated with exposure to tobacco, and eliminate secondhand smoke exposure to non-smokers,” said FDOC when announcing the ban in April 2011.

The partial reversal is based on an inability to control the flow of contraband cigarettes. “The Department determined, after assessment, that it was a better use of resources to not find an inmate in violation, which would potentially cause him/her to go back into prison, for possession of tobacco when so far along in the process of transitioning back into the community, hopefully as a productive citizen,” said FDOC spokeswoman Jessica Cary.

According to FDOC’s annual report, in the first six months after the ban went into effect, nearly 30,000 prisoners or staff members were caught with some sort of tobacco contraband. While the report does not distinguish between the number of prisoners and staff, both prisoners and staff alike are aware of the growing tobacco black-market in FDOC prisons.

At $100 per pack, the staff has incentive to pass off cigarettes for cash. Initially, FDOC prohibited staff from bringing tobacco products into prisons, but staff protests resulted in the department relenting. Although official rules require staff to smoke out of sight of prisoners, most prisons, such as Cross City Correctional Institution, have erected “smoking pipes,” which are locked pipes for staff to deposit butts located in front of the dorms, where guards openly smoke at all times of the day.

Source: Miami Herald