The Utah Department of Corrections issued a statement Monday that placed a ban on smoking for minimum security inmates at one state prison. The ban officially took effect Jan. 1 at the Lone Peak unit of the state prison in Draper and with its implementation, made the entire state prison system smoke-free.
Most Utah prison facilities have had smoking bans for more than 20 years, but Lone Peak minimum security-housing at the Draper prison location was the exception; inmates were allowed to smoke outdoors during recreation time.
Spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections Steve Gehrke said smoking was not something every prisoner was allowed to do, but instead was a privilege.
"Inmates had to work themselves to that area as part of a privilege and there’s certain things that they have above and beyond what the general population of the prison don’t have access to," said Gehrke. "So it was just kind of, I believe in the past, seen as more of a privilege or something that could be offered to them as something they couldn’t get elsewhere in the prison system, something to work toward, I guess."
Gehrke said corrections officials offered inmates smoking cessation programs in advance of the ban, and attributes the change to safety and security reasons.
"Honestly the only change we’ve seen really is a change in administration and leadership with the Department of Corrections. It was one of the priorities of our new executive director over the agency when he came in," Gehrke said. "He brought an outside perspective, kind of had a more wide-encompassing vision of what’s going on across the country and at other facilities and was just a little bit surprised that smoking was still allowed at one of our facilities."
It is believed the change will cut risks from open flames and prevents banned materials from moving into other parts of the prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.