Smokefree Prisons

Prisoner Holding Cigarette Between BarsI don’t like smoking, well actually I do, but the health issues mean I don’t smoke. Still a fine cuban cigar is something to be savoured.

For me smoking has always been a personal choice issue. However our governments over the years have deemed tobacco to be evil and that people shouldn’t smoke. Despite all the evidence about the negative health effects there are people who still choose to smoke. The government doesn’t want them to smoke but no politician, until today, has ever had the gumption to ban tobacco outright.

Smoking will be banned in all prisons from next year, the Herald on Sunday has learned.

Corrections minister Judith Collins is expected to announce this week that a 12-month preparation plan will be rolled out that should see all prisons go smoke-free by July next year.

Department of Corrections bosses found taxpayers could be liable for lawsuits from prison guards exposed to inmates’ second-hand smoke.

The potential threat of legal action was heightened after the Government’s decision to “double bunk” inmates in a single cell, raising the possibility of non-smoking prisoners suing the Government for being housed with smoking inmates.

There goes another cushy reason for life-time criminals to want to be banged up. No more baccy, and their health improves along with it so they get to feel the effects of being banging up a whole lot better.

The dangers of legal action were found after Collins instructed Corrections staff to investigate a ban, and its success rates overseas.

They found tobacco was used as currency inside prison and was the cause of disputes. Further reasons for the ban included the use of cigarette lighters and matches to melt plastic into which blades could be embedded, turning cell possessions into weapons.

Anti-smoking Maori Party MP Hone Harawira supported the move but warned a total ban could lead to an outbreak of violence among prisoners.

Hone Harawira is at least consistent in his approach to tobacco, but the threat of violence in prisons should be no barrier to making them smoke-free.

To my mind this is a move long overdue. If our veterans aren’t allowed to smoke in the RSA then why should criminals be allowed to smoke in prisons. Judith Collins is clearly a politician of her own personal convictions, and she will fight tooth and nail for things she believes in rather than the politically expedient. Oh that other politicians would have a spine such as hers.

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