Bidding process to begin as jail seeks electronic cigarette provider

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Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

The Board of County Commissioners approved the Sheriff’s request Monday to begin a bidding process to find an e-cigarette provider for Tulsa County Jail.

Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado told The Frontier “the bidding process will likely take 60-90 days” after which “the e-cigarettes will be available for purchase in the Jail commissary.”

Traditional cigarettes are prohibited in most Oklahoma jails leaving many inmates who were smokers on the outside without a way to get their nicotine fix. Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices often designed to look like traditional cigarettes. When smoked, they emit vapor containing nicotine.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Casey Roebuck had previously told The Frontier the Sheriff’s Office had polled jails already selling e-cigarettes and found the program had “been really successful.”

And Roebuck said although the idea is in its early stages, e-cigarette sales are expected to raise a “good amount of revenue.”

An inmate smokes an e-cigarette in the Rogers County jail. NEWSON6

State law requires every county to operate a jail, and many are hoping that e-cigarette sales can help to curb rising operations costs while also placating inmates seeking nicotine.

The Rogers County Jail, which began selling e-cigarettes in 2014, estimates they’ve made an additional $3,000 to $5,000 a month from sales.

The Washita County Jail has been selling 30 e-cigarettes a week for $12.50 to their prison population of 85 inmates. Similar sales in Tulsa County Jail, which has a population of over 1800 inmates, could raise $7,600 a week.

The price of e-cigarettes in the Tulsa County Jail has yet to be determined, however, state law requires that money from the commissary be spent on inmates, purchasing blankets, clothes, etc.

In addition to being a source of revenue, e-cigarettes have the added benefit of helping to curb contraband within the jail as illegal cigarettes are bought and sold in black markets within the prison, jail officials have said.

Electronic cigarettes are only the latest move made by the jail as it seeks to cut costs and raise revenue. Last month, sheriff’s office officials announced the jail’s on-site visitation was being reduced from six days each week to two, as apart of a push toward a video-visitation system.

The system allows inmates to talk to anyone for 50 cents a minute through a smartphone app or home computer.

Roebuck told The Frontier earlier this week the sheriff’s office is negotiating to lower the charge to 20 cents per minute. However, that proposal has not yet gone before the Board of County Commissioners.

Tulsa County Jail is looking for bid proposals from the Nevada based company ecig4inmate, which specializes in producing e-cigarettes for the incarcerated.

On its website, ecig4inmate touts e-cigarettes as a money-maker in the corrections industry. The Nevada-based company states its e-cigarettes are designed specifically for inmates.

Looking to grow revenue, Tulsa Jail considers selling e-cigarettes to inmates

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Grant Bumgarner

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