People Ban: NY Prisons

New York

Property Rights for all include Smokers Rights!

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Packets of cigarettes on Rikers Island sell for $200 after prison tobacco ban2003 ban has also led to a spike in black market-related arrests
It’s a trend seen in prisons across the U.S. following state tobacco bans
6 May 2013
Packets of smuggled cigarettes are being sold at Rikers Island prison in New York City for as much as $200 each following the jailhouse tobacco ban, it has emerged.
Since the ban came into force across the city’s prisons in 2003, black markets have grown behind prison walls, leading inmates to shell out $30 for a cigarette and causing a spike in arrests.
Since January 2012, there have been 85 arrests in connection with the black market at Rikers Island, including 20 so far this year, records show.
The hefty cost is just the latest examples of how inmates at prisons enforcing bans across the country are willing to shell out massive amounts – and face hefty punishments – for contraband items
Tobacco bans have been enforced across nearly 40 states for the health benefits of prisoners. But some are defying the ban and are paying on average of $200 for a packet of cigarettes.
Inmates are shelling out a staggering $300 to $500 for a tin of tobacco in states including Florida and Ohio, according to local reports.
Among the arrests at Rikers was deliveryman Stephen Freeman, 48, who was caught allegedly trying to sneak four bags of tobacco on a fruit and vegetable truck into the prison last week.
And that’s some stash – considering a single cigarette sells for an average of $30 at the prison. In the city, a packet of cigarettes will cost around $15 from a bodega.
Freeman has claimed the cigarettes were his, but investigators believe he was going to sell them to inmates, the New York Daily News reported.
Arrests for cigarettes, drugs and blades have risen by 40 per cent in the past three years, from 3,254 in 2010 to 4,570 in 2012, according to department records, the Daily News reported.
Around 16 per cent of these arrests are for cigarettes.
The Correction Department is now using dogs to sniff out drugs, tobacco and cellphones that have historically been thrown over prison walls, in deliveries or through items passed to inmates.
However, the dogs do not search workers’ locker rooms as a u nion has argued they should not be treated as if they are inmates.
The problem has also been seen across other prisons in states which ban cigarettes.
Jeff Eiser, who ran the jail system in Cincinnati when smoking was banned there, told the Tampa Tribune that he witnessed inmates stealing cigarettes from staff, while other staff actively sold the contraband items to prisoners.
In California, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton previously said she saw pouches of tobacco selling for $50 to $200 and cans of tobacco selling for up to $500.
Following the ban in Ohio in 2009, sources said a single cigarette would sell for $10, while a pack of cigarettes would be sold for $200 and a can of loose tobacco for $300.
In the year following the ban, 44 corrections officers and other staff were cited for violations.
If inmates were found to be holding the tobacco, they would receive a written citation or time in an isolation cell – and repeated violations could potentially lead to a transfer to a higher security prison.
Tobacco was ‘the No. 1 contraband item of choice,’ said Mark Stegemoller, from the Warren Correctional near Lebanon in Ohio. ‘It’s very, very profitable.’


City plans to ban junk food from commissary snack bars at all jails
Proposal part of Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition

May 21, 2012
By Reuven Blau

Hard time in city jails is about to get even tougher — at least for inmates who like M & M’s.

City Hall is planning to purge the commissary snack bars at all city jails of popular junk foods, like soda, potato chips, honey buns and M & Ms, the Daily News has learned.

The proposal is part of the Bloomberg administration’s emphasis on improving nutrition, and follows a change that took gut-busting grub off the menu in the pokey.

“As part of the city’s anti-obesity work, we are continuously looking to appropriate steps to improve the food environment in city agencies,” said mayoral spokeswoman Samantha Levine.

But some officials at the Department of Correction are worried that no junk food could make for angry inmates — and more violence.

“That’s crazy. They are not going to be happy,” a jail supervisor told of the plan said of the inmate population.

The change is still in the planning phase, and came about when the agency began looking for new vendors for items sold in the commissary, a city official said.

The commissary now peddles a cornucopia of fatty foods.

The top item is sodium-packed ramen instant noodles, which are 190 calories per serving. Inmates tend to discard the dried noodles and use the flavor packets to add kick to the often tasteless jail food.

Packets of mayonnaise, beef sticks and honey buns are also popular purchases at the commissary, jail records show.

The roughly 13,000 inmates in city jails spend a total of almost $13 million a year on commissary items. Apart from snacks they can also buy soap, shampoo and toothpaste, which are all sold in see-through bottles to prevent contraband from being hidden inside.

It was not clear if the proposal would add healthy foods to the commissary.

The department is also looking to pluck junk food out of vending machines on Rikers Island that are accessible to staff and visitors.

In 2003, the city banned smoking in its jails and began serving up more nutritious, heart-healthy food. There is now no fried food or trans fats served in the mess.

Jail officials hope the move helps reduce steadily increasing medical costs for inmates.

Those expenses have spiked by 11% over the past five years, from $78 million in 2007 to $87 million in 2011, records show. A large portion of those costs, however, went toward psychotropic medications to treat a skyrocketing number of mentally ill inmates.

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