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Utah prison system extends smoking ban to every inmate

Published January 6, 2014 8:56 pm

Policy • Those closest to release previously could smoke outside.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah State Prison is now entirely smoke free.

Smoking indoors and out has been banned at the prison for almost 20 years, except at Lone Peak, the minimum-security housing unit at Draper. Those inmates, who are the closest to their parole dates or the end of their sentences, could smoke outside during recreation times.

But when the prison administration changed last year, they reevaluated that policy and decided to extend the smoking ban to Lone Peak for safety and health concerns, according to a Utah Department of Corrections news release. The ban became effective New Year's Day.

"Maybe a mind set [in the past] was that smoking was considered a perk or a privilege" to be earned with good behavior, said prison spokesman Steve Gehrke on Monday. But cigarettes also give prisoners open flames, an easier time moving contraband and return them to a habit they had previously done without, according to the corrections department.

"It it not great policy to enable a habit that's proven to be detrimental to someone's health," Gehrke said.

The prison administration announced the extended ban to the prisoners in late November so that they could prepare for the change and dispose of their cigarettes before 2014. The prisoners were also offered smoking cessation classes, consultation, clinical services and other information for a smoother transition, according to the department.

The ban should also prevent some of the tax-funded costs associated with treating inmates' smoking-related medical issues, the department news release adds.

Facility-wide prohibition on lighting up has already been going on for a while across the country, Gehrke said. The Federal Bureau of Prisons banned smoking at all its facilities in 2004, and many other state systems have bans against both indoor and outdoor smoking, according to the news release.

The 300 or so Lone Peak inmates make up about 4 percent of the entire prison population.


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