Tobacco use will be slowly phased out starting Jan. 1, according to state Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, and follows on the heels of the decision announced earlier this week by the state Department of Mental Health that smoking would be banned in all seven state mental hospitals come Jan. 5.
The tobacco ban in prisons should be complete by Dec. 1 of next year.
Somewhat surprisingly to those who thankfully have not been incarcerated or had reason to visit our state's prisons in recent years, many of those facilities are already smoke free. That's a contrast from the picture often portrayed on TV and in movies where inmates pass the time by chain smoking. But as it turns out, many county jails are already tobacco free.
Prison inmates have not been allowed to smoke inside since the 1990s, although they could still do so outside during exercise periods.
The tobacco ban applies to prison personnel as well as prisoners. And it's driven by a pair of factors: protecting staff and non-smoking prisoners from second-hand smoke; and the desire to save taxpayers' dollars on health-care costs for inmates. With Georgia's prison population steadily growing, those health-care costs are going up as well - some $226 million a year at the moment, a staggering sum.
Georgia's corrections officers are to be commended for adopting the new plan, and we wish them the best as they implement it.