Cigarette black markets in prison

by on May 30, 2010 at 3:38 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

Shades of the classic Radford article, except the time is now and the author is Stephen Lankenau:

Since the mid-1980s, cigarette-smoking policies have become increasingly restrictive in jails and prisons across the United States. Cigarette black markets of various form and scale often emerge in jails and prisons where tobacco is prohibited or banned. Case studies of 16 jails and prisons were undertaken to understand the effects of cigarette bans versus restrictions on inmate culture and prison economies. This study describes how bans can transform largely benign cigarette “gray markets,” where cigarettes are used as a currency, into more problematic black markets, where cigarettes are a highly priced commodity. Analysis points to several structural factors that affected the development of cigarette black markets in the visited facilities: the architectural design, inmate movement inside and outside, officer involvement in smuggling cigarettes to inmates, and officer vigilance in enforcing the smoking policy. Although these factors affect the influx of other types of contraband into correctional facilities, such as illegal drugs, this study argues that the demand and availability of cigarettes creates a unique kind of black market.

Hat tip goes to Vaughn Bell.

Rob O. May 30, 2010 at 5:02 am

This may be quite representative of my lack of understanding about the way that prisons work, but I fail to see how a prison cannot control the influx of, well, everything into the facility.

Of course, I also don’t understand many of the other topics touched upon here – like the whole “getting the haircut of their choice” by prison barbers. Lemme get this straight, voluntary boot camp soldiers don’t have a haircut choice, but inmates do? That seems less than right.

I also don’t get the whole wage-earning and supplies-purchasing scheme. Why not simply provide the bare hygeine and clothing necessities and skip income-earning schemas entirely? Again, we’re talking about prison inmates being afforded a more autonomous lifestyle than some law-abiding citizens have.

I view smoking as a personal freedom that should be foregone upon prison admission just like so many others. Then again, apparently there are many other individual liberties that carry right into prison. If I can be incarcerated yet still persue a trade, watch cable TV, engage in sports, smoke, drink, and enjoy leisure time, what’s the tremendous incentive for me to uphold the law?

Oh yeah, and taxpayers have to foot the bill for everything else, plus the healthcare costs associated with tobacco-use illness and disease for inmates? Nice.

harleyrider1978 May 30, 2010 at 9:04 am

1901: REGULATION: Strong anti-cigarette activity in 43 of the 45 states. “Only Wyoming and Louisiana had paid no attention to the cigarette controversy, while the other forty-three states either already had anti-cigarette laws on the books or were considering new or tougher anti-cigarette laws, or were the scenes of heavy anti- cigarette activity” (Dillow, 1981:10).

1904: New York: A judge sends a woman is sent to jail for 30 days for smoking in front of her children.

1904: New York City. A woman is arrested for smoking a cigarette in an automobile. “You can’t do that on Fifth Avenue,” the arresting officer says.

1907: Business owners are refusing to hire smokers. On August 8, the New York Times writes: “Business … is doing what all the anti-cigarette specialists could not do.”

1917: SMOKEFREE: Tobacco control laws have fallen, including smoking bans in numerous cities, and the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho and Tennessee.

1937: hitler institutes laws against smoking.This one you can google.

athEIst May 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

P.S. WWII had nothing to do with it. Prohibition was repealed in 1933. WWII(for the U.S.) started in 1941.

Alex J May 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Awhile ago there was evidence that prisoners were using canned fish as currency.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122290720439096481.html

clothing store May 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm

1937: hitler institutes laws against smoking.This one you can google.

Dan June 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm

The so called “black market” on cigarettes as many of you have already mentioned has been around for an incredibly long time. Cigarettes are more valuable than money in many prisons and is commonly a way to buy drugs from other inmates who have smuggled them in. Discovery channel of course has taught me a lot about the ways of an inmate, but the only problem I have with the whole situation is why not just give the inmates cigarettes for something like good behavior, or doing a certain task. Yeah, the issues of taxes come up of course, but lets go to the extreme case of a riot in a prison due to a drug deal gone bad over the issues of payment (cigarettes) and a GUARD loses his life. It’s happened, the stories have been on discovery channel many times. One issue that stumps me though is the “health care” Alex was talking about, not sure how to go about that.

http://www.nicecoachhandbags.com August 5, 2010 at 11:08 pm

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