The Badger asks whether or not inmates should be allowed to smoke in prisons, in light of the latest proposal from the Prison Service wishing to implement a nationwide ban.
It is estimated that nearly 80% of inmates are smokers, and it has been argued that denying them the right to smoke is a violation of a basic human right, based on the individual’s decision.
Let us take into account the definition of prison and the reason for forced imprisonment. One explanation for the term prison is, “a facility in which individuals are forcibly confined and denied a variety of freedoms under the state of the law”.
That being the case, it begs the question of whether or not smoking should always have been banned in prisons. If it had constantly been a privilege denied to criminal offenders, then would there be campaigns to lift the ban in the twenty-first century? I believe not.
No one would deny smoking being hazardous to the individuals health but additionally, the effects of second-hand smoke to staff and other inmates seem like an unfair infliction that could be avoided in the outside world, with non-smokers unlikely to find themselves confined against their will in a constricted cigarette smoke congested environment. Surely the inhalation of second-hand smoke on a non-smoker is an infliction as much as denying a smoker the ability to “light up”, and in fact a less fair one based on the healthier life choices that the non-smoker is making.
Prison should be a chance for offenders to better themselves, both through healthy choices and reformation of character and lifestyle, and quitting smoking would, without doubt, be an improvement to the individual’s health.
Andrew Neilson, from the campaign charity the Howard League for Penal Reform stated that a ban on smoking would cause considerable angst for prisoners who are “very often distressed” and use smoking as a form of release. Surely this is symptomatic of greater problems within the prison system? Surely in order to reform these inmates into functional and improved members of society, we must then focus on the improvement of their mental health. This, I believe, is the only workable long-term solution. Why should we think that the banning of cigarettes would be too great a punishment for the prisoner?
The main purpose of prison is as a correctional facility, and as such the act of correcting all levels of antisocial behaviour would be of benefit to both the inmate and society in general. Every other worker, under the law established in 2007, is banned from smoking in the workplace. A prison worker counts the prison as his workplace to the same extent as an office worker or public servant, and it seems imbalanced to subject prison workers to a working environment that is hazardous to their health. Indisputably the prison workers, being non-delinquents, should have their health and safety prioritised over the desires of offending citizens. No suggestion has been made of cutting the inmates supply off totally, as inmates who smoke will be offered safer nicotine replacements under these newly executed laws.
To conclude, Amanda Sandford, research manager of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) rightly stated that the US, Canada and New Zealand have all successfully implemented a ban on smoking in their prisons, and in doing so have had the additional benefits of reduced risk of fires, lower maintenance and insurance costs and reduced risk of legal challenges by non-smokers currently exposed to tobacco smoke on a daily basis.
Some think prisoners should not be allowed to smoke