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Inmates can't smoke, but now officers can

Score another political victory for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents correctional officers.

The PBA's lawsuit successfully stopped the state from privatizing prisons in South Florida, and now the union has convinced Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker to relax a statewide ban on smoking in prisons.

Tucker's predecessor, Ed Buss, ordered the smoking ban last spring, and instructed that prison guards and other employees had to exit the gates of a prison to smoke -- a highly inconvenient solution and a time-consuming one at that. After the PBA complained, Tucker issued a memorandum on Oct. 4 that allowed wardens at all prisons to designate outdoor areas for smoking by "employees, contractors, volunteers and official visitors."

PBA general counsel Hal Johnson said the union notified Tucker that whether employees can smoke is an issue that should be negotiated by contract, not set forth in a management edict. "We sent him an email saying, 'You need to talk to us. We're the collective bargaining agent,'" Johnson said. "I think this is a fair resolution for everybody." 

-- Steve Bousquet