Another Ban Failed: IN Clark County jail

Indiana Clark County jail update

Smoking allowed in Clark County jail despite city’s smoking ban; Floyd jail remains smoke-free

January 24, 2008

Smokers can no longer enjoy an after-dinner cigarette at Jeffersonville restaurants and bars. But if they get arrested on the way home, they can light up in the Clark County Jail while they wait for a court date.

The Jeffersonville City Council’s 2005 smoking ordinance prohibits smoking in restaurants, government buildings and workplaces, but the ordinance has no authority over the rules and regulations at the jail.

Indiana statutes give Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden complete control over the operations of the Michael L. Becher Adult Corrections Complex, as with all sheriffs across the state. Though the Jeffersonville ordinance does regulate smoking in places of employment, restricting the operations within the jail is beyond its reach.

Though the jail had been nonsmoking, Rodden began to allow smoking in the jail about a third of the way into his first term as sheriff last year.

When he became sheriff, there were “so many behavioral problems,” Rodden said. Not all prisoners are allowed to smoke, but inmates with good behavior are given the option.

Allowing inmates to smoke in some areas of the jail cuts down on fighting and contraband sales, Rodden said.

“We’ve had no complaints (about smoking), from inmates or otherwise,” he said.

The new jail allows inmates to choose whether they reside in a smoking or nonsmoking pod.

But two Jeffersonville City Council members that came down on either side of the citywide smoking ordinance were able to agree on one thing, the ordinance should be applied to everyone.

“It needs to cover the entire gamut,” said Councilwoman Connie Sellers, who is against the ordinance. “If you’re not going to allow one person, you shouldn’t allow it for anybody.”

Councilman Keith Fetz has a different view of the ordinance, supporting the partial ban on smoking.

“Unless there is completely separate ventilation systems, you are endangering not only inmates, but officers and staff,” Fetz said. “It’s the same as saying you can pee in one side of the pool but not the other.

“You see a (smoke-free) trend developing across the United States,” he said.

Very few jails in Indiana allow smoking, according to Douglas Gosser, executive director of the Indiana Sheriffs Association. The Indiana Department of Correction has outlawed smoking in state prisons, as has Floyd County Sheriff Darrell Mills.

The Floyd County Jail allowed smoking before Mills was elected sheriff last year, but he decided to go smoke-free.

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