Smoking ban considered for prisons

20.09.2013 13:22

A ban on smoking in all areas of jails
in England and Wales is being
considered by the Prison Service.
A pilot is expected to begin next year,
with a ban likely by 2015.
It is thought the move is linked to
potential legal action by staff and inmates
who have suffered the effects of passive
Campaigners warn a ban would be
difficult to implement and could have a
destabilising effect, with an estimated
80% of prisoners thought to be smokers.
Smokers among the 84,000 inmates at
prisons in England and Wales, where
tobacco is used as currency on the
wings, will be offered nicotine patches as
a substitute.
'Harmful effects'
A Prison Service spokesman said: "We
are considering banning smoking across
the prison estate and as part of this are
looking at possible sites as early
According to a report in the Times
newspaper, prisons in south-west
England, including Exeter and Eastwood
Park Women's jail, will be involved in the
pilot in the spring.
Inmates are currently allowed to smoke
in their cells but a ban would prohibit
this and extend to all parts of a prison,
including exercise yards.
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.
The Prison Officers Association (POA)
began campaigning for a smoking ban in
all UK prisons in 2007.
It had expressed concerns about staff
and prisoners "forced to suffer the
harmful effects of second-hand smoke".
It came after smoking bans were
introduced across the UK, to protect
people from the effects of second-hand
smoke in workplaces and enclosed public
The bans did not apply to prisoners as
their cells were defined as "domestic
premises", although non-smoking
prisoners could not be made to share a
cell with a smoker.
'Pressure on jails'
POA general secretary Steve Gillan told
the Times the union would work with the
Ministry of Justice to make sure a ban
"works effectively".
He acknowledged it "could cause
disturbances" but pointed out a ban had
successfully been introduced in young
offender institutions in England and
Andrew Neilson, from campaign charity
the Howard League for Penal Reform,
suggested a ban would be difficult to
He told the BBC: "Prisons are going
through unprecedented budget cuts,
prison resources, staff resources have
been cut. There may well be good
intentions behind this policy proposal,
but it will undoubtedly put a lot of
pressure on jails which are already
pretty stretched."
He added there could be a damaging
effect in the short term on the mental
health of prisoners "who are often very
Former offender Mark Johnson, chief
executive of the charity User Voice, said
there are "greater priorities" that need
addressing in the prison system, such as
He criticised the Ministry of Justice for
"tinkering around" with the issue of
smoking, which he believes is a human
He told BBC Radio 4's Today
programme: "We've got a serious
problem the way we have the rates of
reoffending, and they sort of come up
with... a PR line about something as
minute as smoking in cells.
"We work in a number of prisons around
the country and already in communal
spaces smoking's banned. The only place
that you can smoke is actually in your
A ban on smoking in workplaces and
enclosed public spaces came into effect
in England in July 2007 following similar
legislation in Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland.