The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 12, 2014

E-cigs catching on in some Ala jails

— FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said cigarettes always have been smuggled to inmates in jail.

He's hoping that will change, now that the jail has started allowing inmates to purchase non-tobacco cigarettes through a vendor.

"We've been allowing the inmates to purchase the (electronic cigarettes) for 2-3 months, and it is working well," Mitchell said. "We can already tell a difference in the inmates' attitudes."

Franklin and Lauderdale counties also have started selling the non-tobacco e-cigarettes to inmates.

Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May said smoking of any kind is prohibited in the Colbert County Jail.

Jackie Keenum, administer at the Lauderdale County Detention Center, said the e-cigarettes look like real cigarettes, but are battery operated, with a small, flat battery.

She said there is no smoke, no smell.

"It has nicotine, but no tar," Keenum said. "A lot of people use them to stop smoking."

She said one cigarette is supposed to have the equivalent of 21/2 packs of cigarettes.

This is the second week the Lauderdale County Detention Center has been selling the e-cigarettes.

Swanson Inmate Commissary Service operates the commissary at the detention center and sells the non-tobacco cigarettes in the commissary.

"Last week, when I went back into the jail to pass out the cigarettes is the first time in a long time, the inmates were glad to see me coming back there," Keenum said. "In two weeks, we have sold 122 of the e-cigarettes."

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said he has been pleased with how the electronic cigarettes have done at his jail.

"So far, so good. We have not had any problems," he said. "It really seems to be working well."

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