(DeSoto County, MS) Jails in the Mid-South have found a new revenue source you might not expect.
They're making thousands of dollars by letting inmates smoke.
DeSoto County started selling electronic cigarettes, and it is making a $3 profit for each one sold.
They are expecting to make $16,000 this year.
"That goes towards to buy inmate clothing, blankets, towels and sheets," said DeSoto County Detention Services Director Chad Wicker. "Money from the general fund was being used to buy that stuff."
The fairly new gadgets, which contain nicotine, cost inmates $11.05 and cannot be recharged.
They last 500 puffs and then the inmate has to buy another one.
Wicker said any inmate can buy them, but there's a weekly limit of two.
The Florida based company designed the e-cigs for jails.
They're soft, and there's no sharp edges.
"We had an issue with the tubing when we first had them. They ship in a plastic tube, so we take them out of the tube before we give them to the inmate," said Wicker.
He said the electronic cigarettes have cut back on contraband.
The hottest item to sneak in was cigarettes because no tobacco is allowed at in jail in Mississippi.
Not everyone is convinced.
The Shelby County Health Department said the e-cigs are feeding addiction, and, "there is still a lot of unanswered questions if they have any benefits or any effects."
In a statement from the American Lung Association in Tennessee, they said they were "very concerned that former smokers could restart their nicotine addiction or individuals who have never used a tobacco product could begin an addiction."
Wicker said it may not be something they do for a long period of time, but "we tried it, and it's increasing sales."
No decision has been made on whether Shelby County will carry e-cigarettes, but it is being discussed.