Missouri Prisons Could Soon Be Smoke-Free

Sep 25, 2017

Credit File Photo / KBIA

Missouri prisons have been ordered to eliminate smoking after an asthmatic inmate serving a life sentence for two murders won a court judgment.

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.

State officials haven't announced details of their plan to eliminate smoking at 21 correctional facilities.

Attorney Phillip Zeeck, who helped represent Washington, said 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.

"This is a win ultimately for the people who work and live in Missouri's correctional facilities," said Phillip Zeeck, who is with the Polsinelli law firm.

Washington 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.

The 53-year-old 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.