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Md. To Ban Smoking in Prisons

March 9, 2001

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ Tobacco, matches and lighters will be banned at all state prisons in June after some inmates complained of ill effects from secondhand smoke.

The order by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services partially settles a 7-year-old lawsuit by five former and current inmates. Other aspects of a settlement still are being negotiated, their attorney, Andrew Freeman, said Thursday.

The lawsuit sought an order requiring the state to either enforce its 1995 law banning indoor smoking in prisons or offer smoke-free housing.

Inmates ``are supposed to be sentenced to a period of incarceration, not to death by lung cancer or heart attacks,″ Freeman said.

The order covers 25 prisons with more than 23,300 inmates and about 8,000 employees. Inmates and prison workers who smoke will be offered help in conquering their nicotine addiction, said department spokesman Leonard Sipes.

Some prison workers are unhappy with the ban, which will be phased in beginning with an end to tobacco sales in prison commissaries by April 30. Others said they would prefer a voluntary smoking cessation program to a ban.

``There is a certain concern there because you are suddenly withdrawing people from a drug. The population obviously is going to be agitated and so is the staff,″ said Ruth Ann Ogle, president of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents about 3,000 correctional workers.

Under the policy, employees caught bringing tobacco into prisons will be subject to penalties ranging from a reprimand to dismissal, Ogle said.

Ogle said she didn’t know how many correctional employees smoke. Sipes said he believes more than half of inmates smoke.

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