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When I was in prison between 2013 and 2017, inmates were still allowed to smoke outside in Missouri prisons. As a smoker, that was something to celebrate. Since then, Missouri has banned tobacco products on prison grounds because of a lawsuit filed by a non-smoking inmate who is serving a life sentence. Now, as I write this, Arizona is the only state that still allows smoking. The federal institutions banned it years ago.
Studies show that between 70 and 80 percent of all inmates in U.S. prisons and jails use tobacco products, which is nearly four times the national average. So, smoking bans in prison have had a significant impact, but that doesn’t mean inmates haven’t found creative ways to bring tobacco inside.
It’s not a surprise that most prisons no longer allow inmates to smoke, but what about dip? Can you dip in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
In 2006, the Federal Bureau of Prisons stopped selling cigarettes in their commissaries. In January 2015, they implemented an inmate smoking ban on the grounds of all Bureau institutions and offices, except as part of authorized inmate religious activity. Now, bureau staff and visitors are only allowed to smoke in designated outdoor areas.
The BOP also prohibited the possession of smoking apparatus and tobacco in any form for inmates, unless it is part of an authorized inmate religious activity. If an inmate is caught with cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco products, they are subject to disciplinary action.
So, the answer to the dip question in federal prisons is a big, no.
The rules get a bit tricky when it comes to state prisons. Every state has their own policies or laws for tobacco use. But, the one thing they do have in common is that inmates aren’t allowed to use any kind of tobacco productsㄧexcept in Arizona.
States that are completely tobacco-free, indoors and outdoors are: Arkansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Nevada, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, and Wyoming.
All other states have various policies when it comes to tobacco, but the inmates do not have access to dip unless it is brought in as contraband.
The answer to this question is, yes. The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium found that tobacco bans have led to the prevalence of tobacco contraband and a tobacco black market can destabilize a facility.
Really, it’s basic economics. When you ban cigarettes in prison, they can sell for up to $20 each, and whole packs of cigarettes can sell for as much as $200. This creates an opportunity for gangs to make some serious cash. They already have networks for smuggling in other things, but nothing can match cigarettes when it comes to profit potential.
The other thing about tobacco bans is that they are a source of corruption amongst prison employees. Some corrections officers don’t have a problem with smuggling cigarettes or dip because they can make a lot of money, and it isn’t an illegal item, it’s just contraband.
Dip is not nearly as popular as cigarettes when it comes to prison contraband, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make its way behind prison walls. You just have to get creative.
Do you think inmates should be allowed to smoke or use other tobacco products? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Tobacco in Adult Correctional Facilities: A Policy Overview https://publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-fs-tobacco-adultcorrections-2012.pdf Smoking/No-Smoking Areas https://www.bop.gov/policy/progstat/1640_005.pdf Cigarette bans at city jails fuel $200-a-pack black market, surge in arrests https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/jail-cigs-cost-200-pack-black-market-article-1.1335798
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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