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On Feb. 11th I completed presenting 63 cessation seminars in 28 S.C. prisons and much of what I heard from both inmates and staff belongs in this thread. These prisons had made all tobacco illegal and in maximum security prisons (what's called Level 3) the price for a single cigarette was usually near $8 dollars. At my first female prison I shared the $8 figure and one lady afterwards claimed that she was paid $40 for a single cigarette while boasting, "and her parents put the money in my account!"
At my very first prison the warden said that inmates were caught trading illegal drugs for tobacco, something he thought he'd never in his lifetime see. Inmates at lower level prisons doing roadside cleanup were often caught trying to get the butts inside. I used this in later presentations by asking inmates to reflect on what animal may have urinated upon them first. An ice breaker, it usually brought a laugh. Needless to say that Bibles were disappearing at an alarming rate as the thin paper was used to hand roll cigarettes.
At a number of prisons I heard reports of inmates selling themselves for cigarettes. At every prison there were stories that once the new policy went into effect that inmates were caught experimenting with smoking tea or coffee, but no story where any inmate did so twice.
One thing that really crystalized in my mind is just how similar tobacco becomes to other drugs of addiction once declared illegal. With a prison retail per price of nearly $1,600 per carton (10 packs x 20 cigarettes each x $8), which was usually heavily discounted if purchased by the pack, we saw a number of correctional officers and other staff members lose their jobs for getting caught attempting to supplement their modest wages by selling cigarettes.
At one prison they were flying remote controlled airplanes and helicopters and dropping cigarettes like bombs into prison yards. One warden took me into his office and showed a number of cards and letters received that very day that had attempted to bring into the prison loose tobacco that appeared to have been dumped into each. Out of 28 prisons, while nearly all x-rayed my shoes only two had me turn all my pockets inside out.
Initially I was a bit concerned about the fact that most of the prisons were scheduling seminars AFTER the policy went into effect but Joel was correct (as always) in seeing this as a positive not a negative. He assured me that many would be living in perpetual relapse and would value what they'd hear.
But I promise you, never once did I feel superior to what I was hearing as I did some rather horrible things during my 30 years in order to produce that next fix. They are things I'd rather not remember like going underwater on an FBM patrol with no cigarettes or money in order to force myself to quit and then spending the entire patrol living out of ashtrays or begging. How much lower can a man get than that? Still just one rule ... no nicotine today!
John (Gold x8)