Commissioner Cain to legalize smoking at Mississippi prisons

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Mississippi prison inmates who smoke will be able to do so legally for the first time in 10 years.

“Inmates who smoke are smoking anyway, but they’re having to smuggle in tobacco to do it, which is illegal, and it’s even more illegal because state law prohibits smoking in state buildings,” Commissioner Burl Cain said. “That compromises our corrections officers and staff and puts them at risk to either break the law by allowing the smoking or to put themselves in danger by enforcing the rule.”

Effective February 1, 2021, Mississippi prisons will begin selling tobacco to prisoners with part of the sales going to MDOC’s Re-entry Program, a program designated to teach parole-eligible men and women inmates the necessary skills for occupations such as truck driving, welding, and pipeline work.

The remaining funds from tobacco sales will be designated towards remedial courses, in which inmates can achieve a high school diploma and begin college coursework.

“By selling the same cigarettes that are allowed to free people, we are breaking the contraband tobacco trade, designating smoking areas outside, clearing the air inside for the majority of inmates who don’t smoke, reducing inmate contraband violations, and recouping taxpayers some of the dollars it takes to run prisons,” Cain continued.

On top of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products, as well as cigars, will be available to inmates. Currently, 27 other states allow smoking outdoors on prison grounds.

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