People Ban: IL State Prison System

Illinois State Prison System Update

No smoking! Convicts go cold turkey

January 13, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The state’s new indoor smoking ban is creating problems for thousands of smokers forced to quit cold turkey and face withdrawal in an unrelenting place: Prison.

On Jan. 1, Illinois joined 18 other states and made it illegal to light up in virtually every public place statewide. The ban applies to bars, restaurants, offices, and even the state’s 28 prisons.

But unlike other public places, where smokers can step outside — at least 15 feet away from a building entrance, ventilation intake or an open window — inmates are out of luck.

Prisoners, who were allowed to smoke in their cells up to last month, can’t even light up in outdoor prison yards.

The nicotine withdrawal is making some inmates edgy, prison officials say.

“It’s a delicate situation in there,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents Illinois prison guards.

Experts say it’s too early to tell if the ban has increased violence among Illinois’ 44,000 inmates, but other states have reported spikes in crime since smoking bans. An inmate upset by the smoking ban in Tennessee sent a bomb threat to a courthouse last year.

“We haven’t seen any (violence) issues. Will we see some? We might,” said Derek Schnapp, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The u nion has discouraged guards from publicly discussing the ban because of sensitivity to the issue.

Guards at the maximum-security Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois told Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro that tension in the prison escalated after the ban.

“The first week or so, they were throwing lit (books of) matches, screaming and yelling” from their cells, he said.

Experts say the effects of quitting increase irritability and some inmates who have other issues, like mental health problems, could even need psychological attention.

“Smoking among inmates is more common than it is outside. They don’t have anything else to do,” said Chris Mooney, a former prison guard who is a professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “Every minute of every day, (the inmates) are insulted. This is just one more thing they’re being told they can’t do.”

Other experts say the smoking ban has the potential of creating issues for prison employees.

“You empower a new black market. You create yet another class of items that security officers have to be on the lookout for,” said Lindall.

Smoking is the least of all dangers facing an inmate.
He can be raped, wounded in a prison brawl, killed by another inmate; he can lose his wife, children and friends; even under the best of circumstances, his future is bleak.
And we want to turn this guy into a sweet, healthy-conscious New Ager?
This is like telling a starving man to stay away from non-organically
grown produce.
The anti-smoking lobby, mixing lofty ideals and authoritarian impulses, as most crusaders do, want inmates to take programs to help them break the habit.
Why would a method that often fails when applied to well-adjusted citizens be successful in the tense environment of prison life?
Depriving inmates of cigarettes is an imposition of middle class values on a population that is largely under-educated and thus, as statistics show, more likely to smoke.
Inmates are paying their dues and their cell is their home. How far can the state invade someone’s privacy?
And what’s next? A ban on fantisies and masturbation?
Can prisons be transformed into peaceful, healthy havens? Probably not.
If inmates receive unnecessary, cruel treatment, the backlash might be worse than whiffs of second-hand smoke.
Thomas Laprade
Thunder Bay, Ont.

Prisons Prepare to Ban Tobacco
October 30, 2007
By Kate Clements
SPRINGFIELD – The state’s prison system is going completely tobacco-free on Jan. 1, 2008, the same day the statewide smoking ban takes effect.
After that date, cigarettes, cigars and all forms of smokeless tobacco will be considered contraband. Inmates will not even be allowed to smoke in the outdoor areas of the prison grounds.
Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp was not able to say what percentage of the state’s inmates currently smoke, but he added that smoking-cessation materials were being made available to anyone who requested them.
The department is also implementing a gradual program to limit the amount of tobacco products that can be purchased at prison commissaries. As of Nov. 1, inmates may buy no more than 5 packs of cigarettes or cigars or five cans of smokeless tobacco or one six-ounce package of loose-leaf tobacco. Loose-leaf tobacco will no longer be available after November, and purchases during the month of December will be limited to 3 packs of cigarettes or cigars or three cans of smokeless tobacco.
Inmates are being made well-aware that after midnight on Dec. 31, all such products immediately become contraband, Schnapp said. While there are currently no plans to do a mass search for illegal tobacco products on New Year’s Day, spot checks will occur on a regular basis, just as they do for other contraband, he said.
“Violations will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Schnapp said.
He said sanctions could range from a verbal warning to loss of privileges or disciplinary segregation, depending on the situation.
U nion officials argued against including prisons in the statewide smoking ban, citing concerns about increased violence and the rise of a tobacco black market in the already understaffed prison system. But now that it’s law, they intend to enforce it.
“What’s done is done,” said Buddy Maupin, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
“The law has been passed, and we’re going to try to make it work as best as we can, despite the fact that we disagreed with it.”
Although the u nion opposed the ban, not all of its members did, said Jeff Gill, who has been a guard in the state prison system for nearly two decades and currently works at Big Muddy State Correctional Facility in Ina. He said the response to his Web site,, has been “overwhelming.”
“We just have a lot of employees who are really concerned about the smoking issue, the secondhand smoke,” Gill said, adding that a ban will also save money on inmate health care costs and reduce the risk of fires.
Some inmates also back the ban, but others do not. That’s why the John Howard Association of Illinois, a prisoner advocacy group, opted not to take sides on the issue.
“There are very few positions that we are neutral on, and this is one,” said Executive Director Malcolm Young. “The inmates don’t have much, and the ability to smoke is important to some.? I think the ability to be free from smoking is important to some, too.”
Currently, Illinois prison inmates can smoke in designated areas, and in most facilities, inmates can smoke in their cells, according to Schnapp.
“We try to accommodate a nonsmoking inmate with another nonsmoking inmate if they are cellmates, but that is not the determining factor of housing inmates as cellmates,” he said.
Schnapp said the Department of Corrections did not anticipate any major problems as a result of the ban.
“Most of our inmates come to us from the county jails, and most of those are smoke-free,” he said. “It wouldn’t be something that they hadn’t already encountered.”
Gill said he thought inmates would get used to the new policy.
“I’m not saying there’s not going to be problems, but I think they can be worked out if implemented properly,” he said. “It’s just going to take an adjustment period.”
While procedures for phasing in the inmate tobacco ban have been established, state officials and representatives from AFSCME are still discussing what the rules for employee tobacco use should be after the start of the new year.
“It is still an unresolved issue,” Maupin said.

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