Tobacco-Related Violence

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In today's San Francisco Chronicle, the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman makes a case against California's ban on smoking in prisons, arguing that it will increase black market activity and the violence associated with it.

NEXT: Opium for the Masses

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  1. Wow, talk about a losing argument.

    The reaction of most people is going to be that if you want to smoke, don’t be a criminal.

    I’m sure allowing marijuana in prisons would calm some prisoners down, but that’s not allowed either.

  2. I’m assuming that prisons currently don’t allow smoking everywhere, that it’s restricted to designated areas. One of the biggest problems people face when trying to quit smoking is that exposure to smoke tends to make you want to smoke, and being around smokers tends to make you smoke as much as they are. If prisoners could choose to live in either smoking or non-smoking sections of the prison, that might make it easier for those who want to quit to do so. If smoking is allowed anywhere inside the prison, it does strike me as better to institute a system that encourages people to quit and makes it easier for them to do so by allowing them to avoid temptation.

  3. “The reaction of most people is going to be that if you want to smoke, don’t be a criminal.”

    A good portion of them will follow up with, “Good, I hope they kill each other, that’s fewer criminals on the street and less money spent on (insert list of country clum amenities here.”

  4. Joe, if people really feel it would be better if prisoners were killed, they should support subsidized tobacco smoking by prisoners rather than a ban.

    I am a big supporter of drug policy reform, but I don’t think arguing in favor of prison smoking is effective. It could even be counterproductive by diverting attention from genuine problems inside our prisons, such as rape, violence, and what sometimes seems to be sadism by prison guards.

    I support separation of church and state, but I didn’t think it was particularly smart of the ACLU to go after Los Angeles for having a tiny Christian cross on its seal.

  5. Larry: there’s a difference between arguing FOR prison smoking, and arguing AGAINST a ban on prison smoking. Hell, I don’t use cocaine, but I’d support legalization of it. See the distinction?

    As such, I don’t think the guy was arguing FOR smoking as much as he was arguing AGAINST a ban on it. And he was doing so for pragmatic, not principled, reasons. Which, in this case, I feel, is the only valid course. Saying that it’s ok to lock someone up for 20 years, but not ok to take their cigs, seems a bit contradictory. But, when you start talking about the pragmatic EFFECTS of a ban, well, then you have an argument worth hearing.

  6. Not to sound like a jerk or anything, but I am still giggling over Amy Phillips’s idea that we set upsmoking and non-smoking sections in our prisons. As if somebody doing twenty years really has “Stop Smoking” on the top of their priority list. As if taxpayers have “Help Rapists Stop Smoking” on the top of their priority lists (yes Amy, it would undoubtly cost taxpayers money to administer the smoking/non-smoking set-up.) Anyway, I found the idea hilarious.

  7. “The reaction of most people is going to be that if you want to smoke, don’t be a criminal.”

    It seems to me that putting a person in prison is designed to remove him from society. A person in prison loses the right of freedom of movement and many other rights but does it follow that he loses all other (lesser?) rights as well. For instance, can a prison ban meat and force the prisoners to be vegetarians? Would the reaction of most people be “If you don’t want to be a vegetarian, don’t be a criminal”?

  8. Evan, I don’t see the distinction when applied to jails and prisons. Lots of legal items aren’t allowed in prisons. At this point cigarettes are just another thing banned in California prisons. I don’t necessarily think this is great policy, but why spend any political capital on it?

    I want drug policy reform. Like Even, I would support making cocaine available to adults. But perhaps unlike Evan, my opinion is that other drug policy reform efforts – medical marijuana, persecution of physicians for prescribing narcotics, drug treatment instead of incarceration, forfeiture reform, marijuana decriminalization – have both a higher payoff to society and a greater chance of actually happening. All other things being equal, I’d rather the Drug Policy Alliance wrote op-eds about those issues instead. That’s all.

  9. When we have privatized prisons, they’ll be competing for inmates, and then smoking and non-smoking prisons will be a function of the market. If you’re a rapist, and you want to stop smoking, you opt for a smoke-free prison. On the other hand, if I own a prison, I can change the rules whenever I want. Soppose I don’t like health-conscious rapists. I lure them in with promises of a smoke-free environment, and when I have enough of them, I make smoking compulsory. When everything is privatized, thinking outside the box will be easier.

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