After 10 Years, Inmate Wins Suit on Smoking in Prisons

State's prisons will have to be smoke-free by April 1 due to asthmatic inmate's complaint
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 25, 2017 5:32 PM CDT
Indonesian singer Nazril "Ariel" Irham of the group Peterpan smokes a cigarette inside a holding cell prior to the start of his trial at a district court in Bandung, Indonesia, on Jan. 6, 2011.   (AP Photo/Kusumadireza)

(Newser) – Missouri prisons have been ordered to eliminate smoking after an asthmatic inmate serving a life sentence for two murders won a court judgment, per the AP. The Kansas City Star reports Missouri has been ordered to go smoke-free by April 1 because of the lawsuit Ecclesiastical Denzel Washington filed. Missouri already bans smoking inside prison buildings, but it allowed it in designated areas outside. The evidence at trial showed that inmates are commonly written up for smoking in their cells. Attorney Phillip Zeeck, who helped represent Washington, says the ruling may save Missouri taxpayers money because of the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses for the state's more than 30,000 inmates.

Washington, 53, sued the state because he said he kept getting paired in a cell with a heavy smoker despite doctor's orders that he be held in a smoke-free area. The case has been working its way through the federal courts for a decade. Washington, who used to be known as Willie Simmons, was sentenced to death in 1989 for the murders of two St. Louis women. His sentence was later reduced to life in prison. "This is a win ultimately for the people who work and live in Missouri's correctional facilities," Zeeck notes. State officials haven't announced details of their plan to eliminate smoking at 21 correctional facilities. (Read more Missouri stories.)

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