SMOKE BREAK – TIME TO CLEAR THE AIR
Well, hellooo, my forward facers! How are ya? So once again, here we are dealing with another recognizable phrase— Smoke Break! So today I’m going to talk about it. Smoke breaks: what it means when you’re behind bars, how it works, and why they wanted it gone. Then, I’m going to talk about my definition of “Smoke Break”, how I took time to clear the air and think, as well as discuss how you can too. Then we’ll finish up by discussing how you should really break… to move forward.
So, let’s break it down! In jail or prison, when you hear the term “smoke break” this technically means that inmates who smok have been given a chance to take some sort of a break to have a cigarette. For inmates it means a time to step away to either relieve stress, satisfy a nicotine addiction, or perhaps make an illegal transaction without deputies on your back for a moment. Now the funny thing is, most people picture a nice pack of cigarettes, that you tap from the bottom and a nice cigarette will pop up for you to pull out; however, this is not the case when you’re locked up. How it actually works is an inmate will either pull out some tobacco, pull out some rolling papers, and actually roll their own cigarettes, topping them off with a nice long lick to have it stay closed. Another alternative is that you’ve already rolled it and in this case, you simply pull it out of your pocket and start smoking it. This usually only takes place on the yard, or designated areas of an inmates work duty assignment. It used to be that correctional facilities would allow inmates to legally purchase cigarettes from prison canteens and then smoke in designated areas at prisons. When you’re incarcerated, one of the main things you focus on is having money on your books to buy stuff for yourself or to sell. There are three ways an inmate can get money into their commissary account. The first way an inmate can get money for their commissary account is by working a job within the institution, usually for a menial pay. The second way is if the inmate had some sort of money on them when he/she went to jail or prison, he/she has a trust fund, inheritance, or he/she has a legal settlement. Another alternative is simply having someone send the inmate some money. EZ and is one of several services that allow inmates to receive money while in jail or prison. Now let’s keep in mind, this is just to draw a picture of what it means, and how it worked. Very few institutions, if any, still allow smoking.
So now, let me tell you a little bit about the “why’s and how’s” of it being banned. As usual I like to give you a little look into the political realm behind the scenes of inmates through legislation. Why they did it: Smoking is the leading preventable risk factor of mortality in the United States. The threat of smoking is more severe in prisons in comparison to the general population. Prisoners have a higher prevalence or commonness of smoking, which leasds to a higher smoking-related mortality rate. Nowadays, smoking bans have been enacted in 49 states’ federal correctional facilities, including 100% smoke-free and tobacco-free indoors and outdoors on all grounds (20 states), 100% smoke-free indoors and outdoors on all grounds (1 state), 100% smoke-free and tobacco-free indoors (16 states), and 100% smoke-free indoors (12 states). After implementation of the smoking ban, a mortality reduction has been achieved. There has been a significant decline in for cancer diagnosis and respiratory diseases. However, some obstacles should not be ignored, such as the high relapse rate of smoking after release, existence of smoking in smoking-free prisons, nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal symptoms that followed the bans, potentially high prevalence of mental illnesses among prisoners who also smoke, and etc. Given the impact and obstacles of the current smoking bans, the author recommends that: (I) smoking bans should be kept enacting according to the mortality reduction after implementation; (II) more restrictive bans should be considered across the U.S. States, such as smoking-free indoors and outdoors on the ground; (III) further efforts should be made for reducing the high relapse rate of smoking after release; and (IV) other implementations combining with smoking bans should be considered for smoking inmates with mental illnesses.
How they did it: Through rational and evidence basis. It was rationalized that smoking bans are enacted in an attempt to protect people from the effects of second-hand smoke, which include an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and other diseases. Laws implementing bans on indoor smoking have been introduced by many countries in various forms over the years, with some legislators citing scientific evidence that shows tobacco smoking is harmful to the smokers themselves and to those inhaling second-hand smoke. Additional rationales for smoking restrictions include reduced risk of fire in areas with explosive hazards; cleanliness in places where food, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, or precision instruments and machinery are produced and used. The World Health Organization considers smoking bans to have an influence to reduce demand for tobacco by creating an environment where smoking becomes increasingly more difficult and to help shift social norms away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life. Along with tax measures, cessation measures, and education, smoking bans are viewed by public health experts as an important element in reducing smoking rates and promoting positive health outcomes. When effectively implemented, they are seen as an significant element of policy to support behavior change in favor of a healthy lifestyle.
Now with the details I’ve just listed, let me say that I do get it. However, from the eyes of an inmate, its just one more thing being taken in order to break you, make you either act out and get more time added to your sentence, or to make you suffer in cruel and unusual ways, clearly causing physical pain, just as one may experience when withdrawing from any other drug or form of alchohol. It is very difficult to stop. Especially, when one is expected to be force to do so by “going cold turkey”. This is why I’m all about getting to the root of an issue, facing it head on, and moving forward; which leads me to how I took “Smoke Breaks” in jail and prison, and I am not and have never been a smoker of anything. I have never even had one cigarette, or anything else. However, I knew how to clear the air in prison, just as I also know how to clear it on the outsid as well. So inside those prison walls, I understood that I needed to take advantage of any break that was given to me; whether it was for a shift change, a count time, and yes even a smoke break. The difference between my “smoke breaks” and those that others took was that I recognized that it was an opportunity to not SMOKE, but rather clear the SMOKE, and therein my friends lies the key. So yes, when I heard them yell “SMOKE BREAK,” I jumped up with my fellow smokers and headed out with them. The only difference was, they physically headed outside, and I headed outside mentally, meaning outside of my current thoughts. They took time to gather together and share a light. I took time to gather my thoughts and share Gods light. That’s when I realized, it was no different anywhere. If I could do on the inside, and I mean inside prison walls, then I could do it on the inside. But this time I mean inside of myself. In my mind, in my thoughts, and in my heart is where I experienced my “smoke breaks”. That’s the great news! This is the reason why I’m here, which is the reason why I love doing this podcast. I want you to know, its not about the smoking or any other habit for that matte, its about whether or not you can clear the air despite where you are and no matter where the smoke is coming from.
So, when I say “SMOKE BREAK,” I mean its time to clear the air and clear the smoke from your life. So, while incarcerated I learned to recognize when it was getting smokey real fast. I learned how to maneuver through the smoke and help those around me in the process. I knew to leave the cell before the smoke started, meaning a fight was about to errupt. SMOKE BREAK, I knew when to stay in the middle of places and just fan the smoke, like while on my work program and when I couldn’t leave, so I just chose to be a peace maker. I listened to others and helped to become a solution rather than an instigator who would agree with one side or the other. I would state the literal consequences per the title 15, which I had read in full or I would simply pray for or with them. I also understood what happens when the smoke clears. There was usually a lot of ashes and butts left behind, meaning someone usually felt like they were just flicked away from someone’s life, or they felt used all the way down until there was nothing left. So, I knew how and when to sweep up after someone and explain what perhaps the other person really meant or was trying to say during an altercation. I had also observed that there were times to leave people just lying there and allow them to come around; sometimes even another person at another time would come around and pick them up. SMOKE BREAK.
The other thing I learned was how vital the smoke breaks were for me, when to take them, how frequently, and how to best utilize the time I had. I observed how most other inmates were not really morning people, so on weekends, I would get up up extra early and go off to breakfast while most usually slept in. Doing so gave me quiet time while walking to breakfast to gaze around the yard at the flowers. SMOKE BREAK. I noticed the deputies and program staff squeezing in time to eat their lunch so I began to offer assistance with getting meals or helping out with other allowed tasks. I knew to offer them help when other staff wasn’t present as it seemed they were more likely to accept the help. SMOKE BREAK. I also learned proper time utilization. Just as a person who smokes seems to know how much of the cigarette to save for next time, I knew how fast to eat my meal in order to have more time on the walk, who to talk to and when because some individuals would talk a lot longer then others and use up all my break, had I allowed them to. When I would assist with retrieving staff or inmate meals, I had established rapport with kitchen workers which encouraged them to have my meals ready in exchange for fixing their electronics devices. I observed when my cellmates were usually out in the dayroom, and I utilized this time to be alone in the cell. SMOKE BREAK! I also knew a lot and learned a lot more about sports so I could sit in front of the tv and watch sports. I would do a lot of sports talk, and when women couldn’t keep up with the games, they would just leave. This would allow me to have my “alone time” with the TV on Sundays. SMOKE BREAK! So just by learning to take advantage of smoke breaks, I turned a 5-year sentence into what most inmates would call, pretty easy time. But then again that’s another podcast… “How to do TIME”
So as you can probably see by now, all these breaks transend outside and after incarceration. So just as one may have taken a smoke break behind bars, one can also do it on the outside. Here’s how I did it when I got out, here’s how I still do it today and here’s how I want you to do it. Don’t wait months and years to realize that you need to clear the air. Make this a part of your life. Always take time for yourself even if you have family and loved ones who demand a lot of you, intentionally or not. Learn to take one day a month as a “Me Day”. I have it on my calendar, and I tell my loved ones in advance that I will not be available at all this day. I cleared my mind of any worry and made a bold statement to myself that if anything happens to anyone, it was going to happen regardless and today someone else is capable and will figure out how to handles it. On this day, I turn my phone off, I will have already saved money for that day to do something nice for myself, such as a massage or treating myself to my favorite meal. Sometimes, I may go see a good movie I’ve been wanting to see or read a good book with a cup of coffee at the bookstore in this day but whatever I choose to do that day, I do it by myself, and I only do what I enjoy. I do it guilt free. Another way I enjoy a “smoke break” is by volunteering. You would be surprised at how much clarity one can get regarding big decisions by simply taking his/her mind and time off one’s self and helping someone else in need. Even though there are a vairety of ways I could list to help you clear the smoke, the last one I will tell you to do for now is to take a vacation. This is a very big world God has given us to abide in. I know that its easy, especially for prisoners to make your world feal real small; especially, during or after incarceration. I made a deliberate effort to vacation and travel. Regardless of what you think or may have been told, I am living proof that there is a whole lot of places to go and people to see without a lot of money. In fact, I did, and do most of it on very little money at all. It just takes planning and google to find free and low-cost adventures. And trust me, me and my family have had some adventures.
As I stated before, these are just a few of the ways you can do it. There are many others. Just keep assessing your surroundings and making changes in your life without extremely long periods in between. When its time to clear the air and apologize or even just try and understand someone else’s point of view, just do it, and do it as often as you can.
So, I’m saying to you today, “Smoke Break- Time to clear the air” How: Understand when the break is about you, and when it’s about others. What I want you to know: When to wait for smoke to clear, When to just fan the smoke out of your life, and when to pick up the butts and ashes of your life, decide to throw them away, and yep, you guessed it: “Face Forward, and Move Forward”. Until next time… my forward facers.