Inmates face cold turkey reality

Published 12:08 am Thursday, July 5, 2012

NATCHEZ — When the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility went smoke-free Sunday, the inmates joined a reality that other area prisoners have faced for years.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections had in place an order that mandated all MDOC prisons be smoke-free. The order includes all MDOC buildings and grounds.

But Natchez Police Capt. Tom McGehee said the Natchez Police Department’s jail — which is not an MDOC facility — had a smoking ban 15 years before the implementation of the new policy. The NPD jail has been smoke-free since the police department occupied its current building on D’Evereux Drive.

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“We have never smoked in this building,” McGehee said. “Once (inmates) come in the back door, that is it for smoking until they leave the building.”

The only inmates who have an opportunity to smoke are trusties, McGehee said, and they are not allowed to do it in the jail area.

The Adams County Jail, operated by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, has likewise been smoke-free since July 2006, when a law banning smoking in government buildings went into effect. The jail is located in the same building as the sheriff’s administrative and patrol offices.

Wilkinson County Correctional Facility Spokeswoman Angela Smith said the prison let inmates and staff know ahead of time in both verbal and written communication about the new policy, and hosted on-site education sessions by MDOC officials for the inmates.

Employees were also notified that the health insurance program provided by Corrections Corporation of America — the parent company that operates WCCF — covers smoking cessation programs, Smith said, and smoking cessation resources were provided for both staff and inmates.

“We will continue to work closely with our government partner in the upcoming months to ensure a safe, smooth transition to this new policy,” Smith said.

But inmates booked into the Natchez Police jail won’t have the benefit of smoking cessation programs and products, McGehee said.

“You had the opportunity to quit smoking before you came in here, and now we are going to help you quit (cold turkey),” he said.