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Sheriff introduces the use of electronic cigarettes for inmates

By Veronica Burniston
At the Johnson County Jail, smoking has gone smokeless. Beginning in early August, Sheriff Mike Reece instituted the use of electronic cigarettes within the jail. These products are made available to the inmates by the department at a cost of $10 each.
Smokeless and odorless, electronic cigarettes, sometimes known as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), are small devices that vaporize and deliver to the user’s lungs a mixture composed of nicotine and other chemicals. Some E-cigarettes contain little to no nicotine, releasing flavored vapor instead. Although the devices are mostly labeled cigarettes, the ENDS come in a variety of forms, including the traditional cigars and pipes, but also in the shape of everyday items such as pens. Since the product is still new, the side effects and long-term effects of E-cigarettes are unknown as of studies in 2013.
While attending the annual 2013 Sheriff Conference in July, Sheriff Mike Reece, along with many other sheriffs, met with several electronic cigarette vendors. These vendors informed them about how E-cigarettes proved to be very successful assets in Kentucky jails. Interested, Sheriff Reece received a set of free trials that some of his correctional officers, who smoked, tested. When the feedback came back positive, the jail purchased the E-cigarettes in early August.
Not long after, the jail began selling E-cigarettes to the inmates, averaging about 40 cigarettes a week. Since the E-cigarettes were made available, most of the inmate smokers seem calmer and more satisfied. The E-cigarettes also satisfy the nonsmokers, since there is no secondary smoke or smell. According to Sheriff Reece, out of the 137 inmates less than half actually smoke.
New security measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of the E-cigarettes within the jail. When an inmate purchases an E-cigarette, his or her name is taken down on a list, and when that individual returns for a second cigarette after the first has been exhausted, the jail requires the inmate to return the cigarette and then it is dismantled and checked for tampering, missing parts, or any other problems. If something is amiss, the officer prohibits the inmate from purchasing another E-cigarette and his or her entire pod is cut off from the luxury for at least a month. In the past the jail has had one such incident where a few female inmates dismantled their E-cigarettes; after a swift response by the jail and the punishment of the entire pod, the problem stopped. Although some people fear the E-cigarette may be used as a weapon, Sheriff Reece demonstrated the flimsiness of the device, the only solid part being the battery, which the officers fully investigate when an E-cigarette is returned.
Besides providing the inmates with a small luxury, the selling of E-cigarettes also benefits both the jail and Johnson County. Purchasing the E-cigarettes at $5.25 each, the jail sells the product to inmates at $10, which provides a profit of $4.75 per device. This money covers the replacement of needed equipment, computers, and other necessary items, giving the jail its own internal revenue that doesn’t require taxpayer dollars. Sheriff Reece also noted that the availability of E-cigarettes has cut down on their issues with contraband, the smuggling of tobacco products into the Jail.
“Right now it’s working for us,” Sheriff Reece stated, rather enthusiastic about the results thus far. When asked if he would recommend the use of E-cigarettes in other jails, he said he would. As of early August, no negative-effects of the products have surfaced; therefore, satisfied with the results of the jail’s investment, Sheriff Reece plans to continue selling E-cigarettes to the inmates unless a problem arises.