Smoking Ban in Prisons and Tobacco Trafficking

Smoking in Prison

In 1995 state prisons and county jails across the United States discontinued the sale of cigarettes and tobacco inside of their facilities. Smoking was then banned entirely in all U.S. federal prisons in 2004. Fire hazard, high medical cost for inmate smokers and the danger of second hand smoke were the 3 main reasons behind the ban.
For incarcerated smokers, the new smoking ban in prison was like torture, but to prison gangs and corrupt Correctional Officers it was like winning the lottery.


Just like the prohibition-era syndicate run by Al Capone in Chicago, the ban of tobacco in prison offered easy money for corrupt Correctional Officers, prison hustlers and prison gangs. What was once a cheap 2 dollar .65 ounce pouch of Top or Bugler now cost smokers in prison 65 dollars a pouch. Gang members began luring in crooked Correctional Officers willing to smuggle in cigarettes or tobacco for some easy cash and a criminal tobacco enterprise was born inside prison.

Offenders began figuring out ways to access cash since cash-and-carry was how corrupt Correctional Officers did business. Major prison gangs had associates on the outside pay officer smugglers large amounts of currency via money order or cash while small time tobacco dealing inmates would get their hands on a few 20 dollar bills smuggled in by friends or family during visits. An offenders access to cash would create a whole new level of criminal influence and corruption inside prisons and jails across the nation.


By the year 2000, offender beat downs, stompings and prison stabbings became a regular part of the prison and jail tobacco trade. Prison gangs used the threat of violence to collect debts owed to them by incarcerated tobacco smokers. According to a U.S. Justice Department report released in September 2010, officer arrests doubled and so did contraband seizures of tobacco and cash inside prison. Prisoners caught dealing tobacco inside prison had little to lose with a maximum punishment of only 15 days solitary so officials decided to target corrupt Correctional Officers instead. Internal Affairs investigators were called and dozens of corrupt Correctional Officers were arrested for their crimes.


Correctional Officers caught smuggling in tobacco into most county, state or federal prisons now face a minimum of 2-10 years in prison. Law makers consider tobacco trafficking inside of prison a serious crime since it generates more illegal funds than even narcotics. Correctional Officers who work with prison gangs are served with the same criminal indictments prosecutors use to make mafias disappear.



The illegal sale of tobacco inside of prison still continues and corrupt officers and the cash they receive from offenders has multiplied. As long as a demand for tobacco inside of prison exists, the buying and selling of tobacco will live on.





On February 9, 2000 Stillwater Correctional Officer Brian Diethert is arrested for smuggling in tobacco and operating a major tobacco ring with offender dealers. (Associated Press)

On November 2007, Matthew Amos, a former Correctional Officer is arrested for smuggling tobacco into a federal prison. Agents discover that Amos withdrew $17,200 of illegal funds prior to his arrest. (The Denver Post)

On January 16, 2009 Pendleton Correctional Facility officers Tiffany J. Morgan, 23, and Ashley M. Neice, 23, are charged with smuggling tobacco and marijuana into prison. Ashley Neice's inmate boyfriend, DeMario L. Banks, 27, was dealing the tobacco and marijuana inside prison. (Associated Press)


On January 30, 3009 Nassau County Correctional Officer Luke Holland, 42 is arrested for smuggling inside prison tobacco and other drugs. (Associated Press)

On February 4, 2009 Maryland Correctional Officer Timothy Parks and another unidentified officer are arrested for smuggling tobacco inside prison. (Associated Press)


On February 12, 2010 Correctional Officer Barb Roseborough is caught smuggling a package of tobacco and marijuana into the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. (Associated Press)

On November 14, 2010 Rikers Island Correctional Officer Clarence Carrier, 45, is arrested for smuggling into prison 5.2 ounces of tobacco. (Associated Press - New York Post)


On May 25, 2011 Correctional Officers Jake Nelson Rhoades, 28, Marshall Shane Blanchard, 39, Stephen Shane Smith, 31, Katherine Martin Anderson, 42, Christopher Lee Miller, 31 and Vicki Renee Barnhill, 40 are arrested for smuggling large amounts of tobacco to offenders in the Coryell County Jail in Gatesville, Texas. (Associated Press)

On August 2, 2011 TDCJ Correctional Officers Mary Elizabeth Walker and Yosennia Carolina Dejoie are arrested and charged with smuggling tobacco and other contraband into the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, TX. (Associated Press)

On September 16, 2011 Bobby Joe Kirby, 55, a Correctional Officer at the California Correctional Center is arrested by the FBI for smuggling into prison tobacco and cell phones. Prison contraband dealers paid Kirby nearly $20,000 between June 14, 2010 and June 17, 2011. (Associated Press -

On October 20, 2011 Kevin George Malone, 48, a Correctional Officer at the California Men’s Colony is convicted of smuggling tobacco into prison. He is accused of accepting over $20,000 in cash from prisoners. (Associated Press)

On November 23, 2011 Ryan Correctional Facility Corrections Officers Corey Louis Young, 37, and Joseph Louis Jordan, 27, of Detroit are arrested for smuggling marijuana and tobacco products. (Attorney General - MICHIGAN.GOV)

On June 2011 Randy Motl a Correctional Officer at the Avenal State Prison is given a three-year prison sentence for smuggling into prison tobacco and other contraband. (Associated Press)


On Jan 13, 2012 former federal prison Correctional Officer Dreaux Perkins, 26, is sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for smuggling tobacco inside prison. (Associated Press - State Journal Register)



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