Plans to ban smoking in prisons – riots predicted
20th September 2013
no smokingSmoking looks set to be banned in all prisons across England and Wales following the ministry of justice confirming a pilot scheme will be rolled out next year that will forbid smoking in every part of a prison, including cells and exercise yards. Instead, inmates will be offered nicotine patches in an attempt to help them beat any cravings. The pilot scheme will commence in the spring of 2014, starting in Exeter and Eastwood Park Women’s Prison, before gradually introduced in more prisons over the course of a 12-month period. The plans have been formulated out of fear that those inmates and prison officers who do not smoke may decide to launch compensation claims against the Prison Service because of the secondhand/passive smoking they are being subjected to. The dangers of secondhand smoking  is a topic that Medical Specialists Pharmacy have previously highlighted. However, the issue of forbidding prison inmates from smoking could be viewed as a human rights issue and cause a string of legal challenges. Some even fear there is a very real prospect of inmates rioting in prisons all across England in Wales. If some criminals have a violent nature to begin with, denying them a highly addictive substance such as nicotine could cause total pandemonium. Not only are cigarettes addictive – and about 80% of the 84,300 prison inmates smoke – but it is also seen as a valuable prison currency that is regularly traded on the prison wings. Not being able to light up as they see fit, will probably not go down too well. Prisoners are currently given the freedom to smoke outside in the exercise yards and within their cells due to the fact it is deemed to be their “permanent or temporary home”. Bad behaviour can already result in a temporary smoking ban but the universal ban will anger the more exemplary, well-behaved inmates who look forward to cigarette breaks as an escape from the tedium of prison life. Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, agrees with the proposed smoking ban but told The Times it would be difficult to implement. He said: “There is no pretending otherwise. It could cause disturbances but they have done it successfully in Canada and in young offender institutions in England and Wales. We welcome this move. It is our policy to have smoke-free prisons for our members. We will work with the ministry to make sure it works effectively.” In addition, there are those who say that prisoners already have a cushy life. It seems it is a weekly occurrence for stories to emerge of inmates posting pictures to their Facebook accounts showing just how cushy their life actually it. Dee Edwards, of the R and K Foundation, a crime victims’ group, said: “Prisoners are already better fed and cared for than pensioners so why should they be treated any different to the rest of society? It’s getting to point where you can’t even smoke outside a building now so I don’t see why prisoners shouldn’t be banned. If you have a low level criminal who smoke 20 a day may be it will even act as a deterrent if they think they could do to jail and not be able to smoke.” However, Mark Johnson, chief executive of the prisoner charity User Voice, says that smoking is a “human right” and believes that prisoners who smoke may decide to take legal action if it is banned.