Thursday 22 February 2007

Black Markets

This excellent article by Jeremiah Marquez at the Caspar Star Tribune on the effects of California's total ban on tobacco in prisons throws up some really interesting facts:
California's ban on tobacco in prisons has produced a burgeoning black market behind bars, where a pack of smokes can fetch up to $125.
Right off the bat I'm sensing that this may be providing a non trivial incentive for some minimum wage folks to cash in some quick profits. However while we wait for that punchline lets see why this was done:
The ban was put in place in July 2005 to improve work conditions and cut rising health care costs among inmates.
Personally I'd just have kept the smokes legit and jacked the price in the prison store up to $60 a pack if funding health care was the real reason here as opposed to (say) yet another insane puritanical anti-smoking jihad.

Anyway towards the end article we unsurprisingly find out that this sort of situation does turn out to be an irresistible gateway that drags normal folk down into the dark world of blackmarket smuggling.
At Folsom State Prison, a cook quit last year after he was caught walking onto prison grounds with several plastic bags filled with rolling tobacco in his jacket. He told authorities he was earning more smuggling tobacco -- upwards of $1,000 a week -- than he did in his day job.
So, in my cynicism, I wonder did the folks who thought up this policy ever consider whether this type of thing would would happen (and it happens a lot, it's not just one Folsom cook) and if so then precisely what aspect of "improving working conditions" is achieved by fostering an environment that encourages normal employees to turn to crime and get fired?

The best bit though is the fact that the profit potential in this newly created black market is so good that at least one inmate attempted to break back into prison after being released in order to get some (more) of that sweet 'baccy action.
At the fortress-like Pelican Bay State Prison, a felon sneaked back on to prison grounds hours after being paroled. He was found with a pillowcase of almost 50 ounces of rolling tobacco -- worth thousands of dollars on the black market. The plan was to throw it over the facility's fence.
OK so maybe he wasn't exactly trying to break all the way back in to prison but its still quite astonishing.

And the geniuses behind this are the same people who will tell you that even considering legalising Drugs is stupid?

No comments: