by Monte McCoin
The Enid News & Eagle reported on February 23, 2018 that Oklahoma State Representative Rick West had introduced a bill to dismantle a six-year ban on cigarette sales and smoking inside state prisons. The measure, which passed a House committee with a vote of 5-4, moved forward to the full House.
“It’s caused more problems and didn’t solve anything,” West said of the Department of Corrections’ smoking ban. “If the intent was that no smoking be allowed amongst the prisoners, that certainly didn’t happen. They’re smoking in there right now as we speak. What it did was create numerous, numerous problems within the system, and the biggest one is the black market that was created.”
“As a whole, most officers would be OK with allowing tobacco sales back into prisons,” added Jackie Switzer, executive director of Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. “When it was removed, all it did was create another black market item. It created a lot more work for officers having to search out and write up infractions for tobacco. [And] it created a lot more opportunity for, I guess, debts to be accrued inside the prisons between inmates.”
A state budget analysis indicated that prisoners spent nearly $3 million on tobacco products between August 2010 and July 2012, when cigarettes were last sold in Oklahoma prisons.
Department of Corrections officials declined to say whether they supported West’s proposed legislation.
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