Tennessee Prisoners Swap Guard Hostage for Cigarettes at Smoke-Free Jail

A pair of inmates agreed to free a guard they took hostage for several hours at Northeast Correctional Complex in exchange for cigarettes in the smoke-free facility, the warden said.

Billy Grubb, 32, and Bradley Johnson, 25, attacked an unidentified prison guard Monday night and held him hostage for about six hours. The guard was recovering Tuesday after the inmates broke his front teeth.

Warden Howard Carlton said the inmates were threatening to hurt the guard, so they brought in a hostage negotiation team.

"As the night progressed they started saying, 'Look, we'll give up if you let us have some tobacco. If you do that, we'll go back to our cell,"' Carlton told the Johnson City Press. "They got them some cigarettes, they smoked them and went back to their cell and locked themselves back in."

Prisons across the state are instituting no-smoking policies after the state lawmakers passed a law last year banning smoking in state buildings. But the law gave prisons extra time — until July 1 — to enforce the ban because of concerns it could spark inmate disruptions.

An investigation into how the inmates got out of their cell and their motive for attacking the guard is continuing.

Johnson is serving 25 years for second-degree murder and Grubb is serving a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder.

Charges against the two inmates are pending the outcome of an investigation.