New Zealand to ban smoking in prisons

New Zealand would ban smoking in the country’s prisons from July 1

next year, corrections minister Judith Collins has announced, dismissing

warnings that the move would lead to increased violence.

About 5 700 prisoners – two-thirds of the current prison population

– smoke and they will be given cessation courses, including nicotine patches, to

help them quit over the next 12 months.

“The high level of smoking in our prisons poses a serious health

risk to staff and prisoners,” Collins said. She said it was not fair that the 3

500 corrections staff were the only workers in the country not given protection

from second-hand smoke in the workplace.

Kim Workman, a former Justice Department executive and director of

the Rethinking Crime and Punishment organisation, said the move was likely to

cause “violence or mayhem of some kind”.

He said it would be particularly difficult for new prisoners who

were already grappling with drug and alcohol withdrawal, and mental and physical

health issues.

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon told Radio New

Zealand: “People coming off nicotine can be very unpredictable, and very anxious

and aggressive, and we’re going to have a large part of our prison population

going through that and we (prison officers) are going to have to manage

them.”

Celia Lashlie, a former head of a women’s prison, predicted havoc

in the country’s jails when the ban is introduced.

She told Radio New Zealand the move was not about second-hand

smoke. With an election due late next year, she said the government was trying

to appeal to conservative New Zealanders by appearing tough on criminals.

Collins said smoking bans had been introduced in prisons in the US,

Canada and Australia, and there were risks attached to allowing prisoners to

have tobacco – often used as informal currency – matches and lighters.


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