No Smoking Maximum Security

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

At first glance, it seemed like a normal day in the Columbia Correctional Institution.

But there was something different in the air.

Or, should we say, the air was different, because something wasn't in it.

"A lot of people don't want it to come about, but it's here and everyone's dealing with it," said Jim Porter, correctional officer, "both officers and inmates alike."

For the first time on Monday, this maximum security prison in Portage is tobacco–free.

No cigarettes, no pipes, no chewing tobacco.

And you might think, with some of the state's worst criminals suddenly having to quit smoking, that the guards here would be a little worried about their safety ... but not the officers we talked with.

Deputy warden Marc Clements says the inmates are dealing with the no smoking policy very well.

Clements says they've been preparing the tobacco users for the ban since last October, and while some have complained, there have been no problems in this prison or any of the other Wisconsin correctional facilities that are smoke–free.

"Inmates coming in from county jails, all the state's county jails are tobacco free," said Clements. "So this is nothing new to them."

Treatment is being offered for tobacco users in the prison to help them deal with any addictions.

And that's part of the reason why the guards are saying they're no more concerned for safety now, than they would be any other day.

"We're always concerned in this environment, but I don't know if this will cause any undo concern," said Porter.

State officials say they are cutting back on tobacco, in part, to save taxpayers money.

No smoking or chewing means fewer health problems, and that means less money would have to be spent on health care.

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