The government’s ban on smoking in prisons has been ruled unlawful.
Someone with a better understanding of the law than I have might be able to explain why.
I’d have thought the right for other prisoners and staff to breathe fresh air trumped that of smokers’. The danger to prisoners and staff from fire would be another justification for the ban.
The legal ruling appears to be academic anyway.
Law changes that came into force in March make it clear that tobacco products are unauthorised items and therefore it is against the law to bring them into a prison. They also make it an offence to smoke tobacco or any other substance inside a prison.
These amendments also address the issue of prisoners challenging penalties handed out to them for possessing tobacco products ruling out compensation for them.
Implementing smokefree prisons was always going to be a serious challenge and it has gone incredibly well and without major incident. We are the first national prison service to achieve this.
Since the introduction of smokefree prisons on 1 July 2011 our prison staff report a better and healthier work environment for both themselves and prisoners. Independent research has confirmed that air quality in our prisons has improved, and there has been a significant drop in fires.
For many sentenced and remand prisoners giving up smoking has led to a positive improvement in their lives, with better health and savings in money spent on tobacco products.
The ban was preceded by an extensive 12 month campaign led by Corrections and supported by the Ministry of Health and the Quit Group to encourage smoking cessation for prisoners and staff. This gave prisoners and staff the opportunity, support and motivation to attempt to stop or reduce their smoking prior to 1 July 2011. Many took up this opportunity and gave up smoking early.
Since July 2011 prisoners have been able to spend more money on phone cards and increase their contact with family and friends. They have also been engaging more with staff and available activities.
We have been able to provide a healthier, safer environment for staff and prisoners.
Better work environment, improved air quality, fewer fires, more money to spend on phone cards and a healthier, safer environment are all very good reasons for the ban to continue.