Smoking is set to be banned in prisons across England and Wales. A pilot project is set to commence in Spring 2014 in prisons across the South West including Exeter and Eastwood Park Women’s prison. This pilot will ban all tobacco products in all parts of the prisons including prisoner’s own cells and exercise yards.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said:
“We are considering banning smoking across the prison estate and as part of this are looking at possible sites as early adopters.”
Senior prison staff were said to have been informed of the move in a letter.
“You will no doubt be aware that the decision has been made that the time is right for the prison estate to adopt a tobacco and smoke-free policy to provide a smoke-free workplace/environment for our staff and prisoners,” the letter, quoted in the Times, said.
It is estimated that more than 80% of all prisoners currently smoke and tobacco is considered to be a valuable commodity in prisons. The pilot appears to have come about after a long running campaign by prison staff who have raised concerns in relation to passive smoking.
The smoking ban which was introduced in 2007 did not apply to prisoners smoking in their own prison cells although it did stop prisoners smoking in some open areas. It has been suggested that the prison service is implementing the proposals in response to fears that prison officers may bring compensation claims from those who suggest they are victims of passive smoking.
Ban in Canada a Success
Smoking is currently banned in prisons in Canada and Guernsey Prison governor Dave Matthews said that a smoking ban enforced earlier this year at Les Nicolles jail had “gone very well”.
David also added:
“We have removed tobacco but also provided prisoners with some assistance to try and give up their nicotine habit through the form of patches and the use of Quitline.”
“For those who have decided not to (quit smoking),” he continued, “we have allowed them to purchase their own e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a much safer way than normal tobacco does.”
However, there are concerns in relation to the effects of the proposals. With such a high number of inmates currently smoking some have suggested the plans could lead to rioting.
Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said:
“Recent prison inspection reports show they are increasingly stretched on a daily basis, battling simply to stop disturbances.
“A smoking ban in prisons without planning and resources seems an odd priority.”
Certainly the proposals will not find favour with those inmates currently addicted to tobacco products and it remains to be seen whether prisoners may bring claims that the proposals constitute a breach of their human rights.