E-Cigarettes in Jails How it Helps Inmates
Smoking is prohibited in jails because of the potential risks like fire and second-hand smoke. The introduction of e-cigarettes, however, is slowly making jail officials reconsider that rule. To date, county jails in about seven states in America actually allow the sale of e-cigarettes to inmates via jail commissaries. E-cigarettes have already become one of the most popular items in the jail commissaries where available.
What are e-cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices composed of an atomizer and a cartridge which holds the e-liquid. The atomizer turns the e-liquid into vaporized form. It is used just like a regular cigarette, by inhaling and puffing, for that nicotine fix. The user can also choose to just enjoy vaping flavors and avoid the nicotine altogether. E-liquids come in different flavors making the experience more enjoyable. Vaping, or inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes, is deemed safer and healthier because smoke that has tar and carbon monoxide is not produced. The vapor inhaled is free from tar, toxins and carcinogens.
What are jail commissaries?
A jail commissary is basically a mini-store or a canteen found inside a prison facility. Inmates can buy necessities from the commissary like food, toiletries, writing supplies, and products for hygiene, among other stuff. Inmates are not allowed to have cash on hand so they pay their commissary goods using an account set up and funded by their families. Upon the permission of some jails to use e-cigarettes inside the facility, inmates who used to smoke before being convicted now have the chance to inhale and puff once again. Jail management saw this opportunity to generate revenues for facilities, their staff and the guards. A lot of country jails have been suffering from budget cuts. The guards are deemed to be overworked and underpaid too. E-cigarettes, however, were made available in some jail commissaries not only for the income from sales but also for the improvement of the inmates.
How do e-cigarettes help inmates?
In a survey done a few years ago among the inmates in one prison facility, it was found out that 80 percent of the inmates were smokers before they were sent to jail. These inmates were hardcore smokers and being locked in a jail entailed a huge adjustment for each one. Withdrawal symptoms from an addiction to a substance like nicotine can get pretty nasty and can make an individual very irritable. In Putnam County jail, the level of irritability of smoking inmates was greatly reduced when the commissary started selling e-cigarettes. Vaping may not be the real thing for these smokers but it is the next best thing. It also favored the management because having fewer irritable inmates meant lesser disputes among inmates. When there are less fights and disputes, inmates getting hurt are reduced too. Management is saved from spending for medical bills. Sheriff Byron Satterfield of Macon County said that fewer inmate fights meant lesser trips to the hospital, saving the county at least $2,000 for every broken nose that needed fixing.
For smokers, nicotine seems to provide them that calming effect. Since e-cigarettes are just regular tobacco sans the harmful smoke, these can also calm the nerves of the users. Being in jail is enough reason for someone to be “on the edge” and a single e-cigarette vaping once a week can help an inmate off the edge. County sheriffs note the most significant benefit of allowing e-cigarettes in jails: reduction of tension and violence. This is beneficial to both inmates and guards. Altercations are reduced and harmonious relationships are fostered.
There are cases where inmates were found to be smuggling tobacco into jails. Smuggling contrabands, like tobacco, is of course against the law and a lot of inmates get into so much trouble when caught. Inmates who are found guilty of doing it are punished. Since the introduction of e-cigarettes in jails, the smuggling of tobacco slowed down because the inmates are given a better and more legal alternative. In White County, Sheriff Randy Cobb says that the sale of e-cigarettes has “definitely showed our contraband,” and that “the morale of inmates is up.”
The sale of e-cigarettes, although already allowed in some county jails, is not yet permitted in federal prisons. Some jail administrators, though, think that all county jails will eventually adopt the sale of e-cigarettes in facilities because of the two-way advantages it offers. Manufacturers are already trying to adapt to jail environment; Chinese and American producers have started manufacturing “jail-safe” versions made of plastic instead of metal.