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Freedom to Smoke Escapes N.Y. Jails

February 07, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Lighting up a cigarette -- one of the few privileges for inmates at Rikers Island -- is about to become a thing of the past as the city joins a national trend to restrict smoking behind bars.

A new city ordinance that goes into effect March 30 is aimed primarily at banning smoking in restaurants and bars, but it applies to virtually all workplaces, including the city's 14 jails, with an estimated 14,000 prisoners and 10,000 correction officers.

"We see this as another form of punishment, perhaps taking away one of the last personal kinds of pleasure prisoners have," said Alice Green, executive director of the Center for Law and Justice, a prisoner rights group. But R. Scott Chavez, vice president of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, said there will be "fewer respiratory problems" as a result of the ban.

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