LONDON, 21 SEPT: Locked up for up to 23 hours a day, the few moments of light relief on offer for thousands of inmates residing at Her Majesty&’s Pleasure are set to dwindle further. After pubs, trains and public places, the prison estate for England and Wales is set to introduce a smoking ban ~ sparking warnings from former prisoners about a possible backlash.
Following the lead of Canadian jails and young offender institutions, prisons are set to become smoke-free zones because of concerns of legal action from non-smokers claiming to suffer the effects of passive smoking, according to the prison officers’ union.
Labour said yesterday that the plan to run a pilot at a number of undisclosed sites was an “odd priority” after claiming that inspection reports had warned that prisons were increasingly stretched anyway. The scheme is expected to be launched in the spring of next year and if successful could be rolled out across all prisons within 12 months, according to reports. However, the scheme was met with opposition by some groups and former inmates who warned of disturbances with the withdrawal of tobacco and replacement with nicotine patches. Around 80 per cent of inmates in England and Wales are believed to smoke.
“One inmate told me: ‘I was on 23-hour bang up for six months and my cigarettes were my only comfort’,” said Mark Johnson, a former prison inmate who runs User Voice to prevent r-offending. “He said there&’s going to be a lot of trouble.” Former inmates said it was hard to exaggerate the importance of smoking and tobacco inside prison, which is used as a currency. “It was vital for getting through the long weekends of bang up,” one former offender told The Independent.
“You could only get it once a week, so if you had half an ounce, you’d break it and give someone a quarter [ounce] and get a half ounce the next week.