A number of jails across the nation have started allowing inmates to purchase electronic cigarettes. This has been a rather reasonable compromise to the near total smoking bans many states have placed on their prison systems.
By 2010, half of U.S. states had banned tobacco use in prisons as a way to cut down on healthcare costs. The problem with that is that a black market for cigarettes crops up and inmates lacking their nicotine fix are much more likely to get into fights. Cracking down hard on the contraband market is difficult and does little to quell the fights.
Meanwhile, electronic cigarettes provide a nicotine fix, are almost impossible to turn into weapons, and provide more use for the dollar than cigarettes. That they cause around 99% less damage than smoking means they work in line with the reasoning for tobacco bans rather than circumventing them.
A sheriff at one of the prisons said that by providing e-cigs to inmates, fights and contraband problems have dropped off noticeably (check out the story here).
It’s actually a very efficient system. An inmate can purchase a disposable electronic cigarette for $10, get about 2 cigarette packs of equivalent use out of it, and must return it in order to buy a new one. In addition to cutting down on trash, this also means inmates aren’t being given lighters or matches to indulge in the habit.
Reportedly, jails and prisons that do provide e-cigs are using ones designed for use in the corrections environment. Whoever had that idea just found a very profitable niche for e-cigs. Genius.