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Ohio Prisons Investigating Tobacco Connection to Violence

Ohio's top prison official has asked his department to investigate whether an increase in violence is linked to a tobacco ban and the subsequent use of contraband tobacco as a sort of currency among inmates. The ban was instituted in 2009 to help reduce inmate health care costs. The department's chief security-threat investigator tells the Dayton Daily News that gangs can gain power in prison by controlling the trade of contraband goods, such as the tobacco, illegal drugs, weapons and cellphones. Prisons Director Gary Mohr is looking into whether disturbances that involved at least four inmates were connected to illicit tobacco. Mohr says he'd have to weigh the severity of the violence against the benefits of the tobacco ban before deciding whether to lift the ban.