WHITE COUNTY, Ill. (KMOX) – A southern Illinois sheriff is trying something he says improves morale and cuts down fighting in his jail.
Roughly 80 percent of the 70 to 75 inmates behind bars in White County are smokers. While traditional cigarettes are banned, Sheriff Doug Meier began allowing electronic cigarettes in the jail two months ago.
Inmates can buy electronic cigarettes at the jail commissary. They are made for single-use so they don’t come apart and can’t be used as a weapon.
The jail makes $5 off each e-cigarette sold at the commissary. Meier says that offsets costs and limits the need for taxpayer dollars.
“We have a tremendous problem with people trying to bring contraband into the jail, trying to smuggle tobacco inside, and this hopefully will eliminate that issue as well,” Sheriff Meier says.
E-cigarettes emit a vapor rather than smoke, making them harmless to the other inmates, guards, and visitors.
When asked to respond to critics who say a sheriff shouldn’t make jail comfortable for inmates, Meier said that is not his intent. By boosting morale and lowering the number of fights, he says the e-cigarettes are meant to benefit the jailers.
Meier says he has received calls from other penal official around the country who want to know about his e-cigarette program.