First Posted: 1/15/2009
Ban takes effect Jan. 17
Matt Elofson-Staff writer
LUMBERTON - Inmates at the county jail will soon be losing another freedom - smoking in their jail cell.
The Robeson County jail last week started limiting the number of packs of cigarettes inmates can buy, doing so to wean them to get them ready for a smoking ban, which will go into effect on Jan. 17.
Sheriff Glenn Maynor says the Robeson County jail is one of two left in the state that allows its inmates to smoke. He said the ban is prompted in part by some inmates' complaints about second-hand smoke.
“A lot of inmates are glad to come here so they can smoke,” Maynor said.
Also, the jail is accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and under its new standards, no smoking is allowed.
Assistant Chief Jailer Capt. Jeff Martin said there are about 45 non-smokers at the jail, out of a total of about 400 inmates. Martin said inmates can smoke only in specified cells. Employees go outside to a designated smoking area.
Martin said the jail already limits the brand inmates can smoke in the jail, allowing them to buy only Bailey's or Bailey's Menthol at the jail's canteen. Martin said the Bailey's brand is the cheapest the jail could find to sell in the canteen.
Inmates can spend up to $40 per week at the canteen through a computerized debit system. No cash is used at the jail.
Previously, an inmate could buy a carton of cigarettes each week. But as of Dec. 13, inmates were limited to six packs a week, a number which will continue to decrease until Jan. 17.
“We're trying to phase it in slowly because so many people smoke and how hard it is to quit,” Maynor said. “I used to smoke 20 years ago and I know how hard it is to quit.”
Enid Begay, the jail's health administrator, said educating the inmates on how to deal with dropping the habit will hopefully make quitting easier on them.
Begay said the medical staff is talking to the smokers individually, suggesting they drink more fluids and exercise more regularly. Begay said jail staff will issue soft peppermint candy to help inmates with their withdrawal, as well as caffeine-free sodas at the jail's canteen.
“You're going to get some jittery folks,” Begay said. “We know that, but we're trying to educate them. If someone is real severe and it becomes a health issue for them, we will give them nicotine patches, but only under the physician's order.”
Over time, the ban will save taxpayer money on health care for inmates and maintenance of the facility, Begay said.
“We have a lot of health issues coming into this jail, and the taxpayers foot the bill,” Begay said. “It will affect maintenance in that we've had to repaint several times because the nicotine yellows things.”