Prison going healthy?
STANDISH — Prisoners sentenced to the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility (SMF) are now serving healthier time since tobacco cessation has began.
Since the first of April, SMF, along with all other prisons in the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC), began slowly phasing out tobacco for prisoners and employees alike, said Rebecca Bailey, administrative assistant at SMF.
Bailey said the DOC handed down a memo to prison facilities on Feb. 27 informing them of the decision, which was made due to litigation against the department and legislation from the Michigan House and Senate that would ban smoking in correctional facilities.
According to Bailey, the prison would be smoke-free by next year.
“The actual date we will be smoke-free is Feb. 1, 2009,” Bailey said.
Before February 2009, though, SMF will phase out tobacco usage incrementally.
Effective April 1, inmates can purchase up to 6 packages of tobacco products every two weeks from SMF’s prisoner store. On Oct. 1, that limit will be down to 2 packages and on Dec. 1, the limit will be only one tobacco product every two weeks.
“We’re not going to sell any tobacco products (in the prisoner store) after Jan. 1, 2009,” Bailey said.
After the official date of being completely smoke-free, the punishment for tobacco found on prisoners is not one the DOC is taking lightly.
“It will be considered contraband,” Bailey said.
But according to Bailey, the transition to tobacco cessation is actually going smoothly with the prisoners, who can only smoke outside of the facilities right now.
“The prisoners are handling it pretty good,” Bailey said. “A lot of prisoners are happy because they want to quit and this will make them quit.”
The transition also seems to be going well for employees.
“Employees will not be able to smoke anywhere on the grounds. … We haven’t gotten a lot of negative feedback from them, either,” Bailey said.
To assist with the transition, tobacco cessation training is being conducted by the DOC for prisoners and added to employee training sessions that are SMF conducts every Tuesday.
Additional training for employees is being sought after from St. Mary’s of Michigan Standish Hospital by SMF. Bailey said the training that prison employees receive would then be given to inmates.
The tobacco cessation also includes chewing tobacco products.