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Prison smoking ban starts next year

Prison smoking ban starts next year

December 14th, 2017 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

After a victory in a court case brought about by an inmate in the Missouri Department of Corrections who suffered health effects from secondhand smoke, the department will ban smoking in designated smoking areas around prisons next year.

DOC officials have begun to circulate social media messages to remind employees and residents of the changes.

Court records show Ecclesiastical Denzel Washington, an inmate serving a life sentence for two murders at the Crossroad Correctional Center in Cameron who suffers from asthma, complained about being paired with a smoker while in prison. A federal jury in September agreed with Washington that this was cruel and unusual punishment.

All DOC facilities will be tobacco-free starting April 1. No one — including staff, offenders, visitors, contractors, etc. — will be allowed to possess or use tobacco products inside DOC facilities. A smoking area will be provided outside the perimeter for staff and visitors.

Staff who are on the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan are eligible for free smoking-cessation products, such as nicotine replacement therapy, as well as educational materials and classes. Offenders can buy nicotine replacement products in the canteens, and they have access to classes and counseling through their health care provider, Corizon Health.

DOC officials said they are gradually stepping down the amount of tobacco any offender can purchase or possess at one time. Sales of tobacco products in the canteens will stop March 16.

During the trial, Washington's attorneys noted 95 percent of Missouri inmates smoke. Some of those inmates testified they smoked as many as two packs a day. The DOC allowed inmates to buy cigarettes from the commissary, but they were only supposed to smoke them outside. Washington's attorneys also said the ruling could save Missouri taxpayers money because of the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses for the state's more than 30,000 inmates.

Lawmakers at the Capitol proposed legislation in 2011 prohibiting tobacco use in any area of a state correctional center or the surrounding grounds, saying it would save the state millions of dollars in health care costs at prisons for treating emphysema, lung cancer and COPD. The legislation failed to pass.