Florida Man Arrested for Tossing Cigarettes to Inmates on Fourth of July

By Miguel Moreno

It was the Fourth of July when Michael Brown thought he’d celebrate the holiday by giving inmates from Cherokee County, Alabama, a pack of cigarettes—but now he’s paying for it.

The inmates were setting up flags on the capital’s Avenue of Flags—a grouping of the U.S.flags  in a semi-circle on Alabama State Capitol grounds—when the 39-year-old drove by, tossing his cigarettes at the inmates, according to Birmingham News.

Cpl. Nick Vaughn pulled Brown over after witnessing the cigarettes fly.

Michael G. Brown
Michael G. Brown (Mugshot/Cherokee County Sheriff)

“He said, ‘I know they can’t have tobacco in the jail, but it is the Fourth of July,'” Sheriff Jeff Shaver told the newspaper. “Apparently he thought it would be a good idea.”

That wasn’t the case, however. Brown was charged for promoting prison contraband in the third-degree, as well as driving under the influence.

“We do everything we can to keep contraband out of jail,” Shaver told Birmingham News. “We don’t need the public throwing it to them.”

Brown was released on a $1,000 bond.

According to a study, between 50 and 83 percent of inmates smoke—approximately four times higher than the national average of smokers in the United States.

Cigarette packs on display
Cigarette packs are on display for sale in a shop in New York City on April 1, 2009. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Most jails and prisons in the United States have therefore “adopted some type of smoke, or tobacco-free policy,” reports the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. With mounting evidence of health-risks, tobacco-smoke is a serious concern for correctional facilities as medical funding is limited.

Inmates are “generally not eligible for … Medicare and Medicaid,” so prisoners with tobacco-related illnesses consume a disproportionate amount of the facility’s budget.

Petting Dogs: Legal, Free, and Healthy for Inmates

Meanwhile in Florida, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the Fourth of July by allowing inmates to pet, feed, and play with dogs on the Fourth of July.

The sheriff’s office said it hopes the opportunity will help inmates transition into society and inspire a sense of compassion and purpose.


Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Florida (Official) စာစုတင်ရာတွင် အသုံးပြုမှု ၂၀၁၉၊ ဇွန် ၂၉၊ စနေနေ့

Dogs are easily frightened by fireworks, and having a person to comfort them will benefit both the inmate and the dog, the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

“Our goal is to not only help calm the dogs but also to help build and instill a sense of purpose and compassion in the inmates that will hopefully aid them as they transition back into society once they have served their time.”

Associate Professor Wendy G. Turner from Ohio State University found that inmates that participated in a dog-training program developed positive traits or reinforced virtues they already had, such as patience and parenting skills.

An inmate plays with dogs
An inmate plays with dogs as part of the “pet therapy project” at the Bollate penitentiary near Milan, on November 26, 2014. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)

An inmate cited in the report said the atmosphere inside the detention is a lot different with and without dogs.

“Everybody’s thinkin’ they’re at home or something … it’s a lot easier atmosphere to live in having the dogs around than not havin’ the dogs,” said Chris, according to the report. “It takes a lot of the tension off.”

The sheriff’s office met with earnest support on Facebook, with the post garnering over 1,700 likes.

“Awesome Program! Help the animals and help the inmates! Just another compassionate program from our Sheriff and Brevard County Sheriff’s Office,” one woman wrote in the comments.

“One of the best news stories I’ve read in quite a while. We look for ways to help the inmates better establish personal responsibility with a caring attitude and you’ve struck gold … and the dogs win as well,” one man wrote.