According to BBC News, smoking in all areas of prisons in England and Wales could be banned by 2015, a move which is being considered by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
This ban would rid the institutions of the negative effects of passive smoking for non-smoking inmates and staff. However, the ban will be extremely difficult and controversial: 80 per cent of inmates are smokers. There are many varied opinions on this issue; some argue against a ban on smoking in prisons, while others argue for it. I will be arguing against the ban.
First of all, M. Johnson, the founder of Charity of Voice and also an ex-prisoner, stated that smoking is a choice, which inmates have as their human right. In other words, in a democratic society like the UK, people have their rights and freedom of choice, which should be protected by law and government.
However, this ban goes against human rights because prisoners will be forced to quit smoking against their will. So, this ban must then be seen as contravening the core principles of democracy. Secondly, prison as an institution should not only be a place for punishment but should also be mainly for rehabilitation. After the sentence is served inmates will come back into society. We should help prisoners change and become better, and not treat them as unwilling people who cannot decide for themselves what they should do. A ban on smoking adds to the perception of prison being a punitive regime, and one that focuses on retribution rather than improvement.
Another argument against a ban stems from the reasons why inmates smoke, which is, according to ex-prisoners, stress and boredom. The smoking ban may, therefore, increase violence, anxiety and self-harm in prisons, because for most inmates smoking is a way of coping with stress. Instead of implementing a ban, there are other ways to reduce the adverse effects of smoking. M. Johnson suggests that smoke and non-smoke cells can be organized in prisons. It can exclude any harm for non-smokers within the living quarters, as prisoners would only be able to smoke in their cells.
Also, the fact should be taken into account that tobacco is one of the main currencies within prisons, and even some non-smokers buy into that trade. In light of this, if a smoking ban becomes established, inmates are more likely to use drugs as wages and as a result, the number of drugs being circulated and consumed around prisons may increase. An example of a badly received smoking ban is optimized by the nationwide ban in hospitals, which showed that over 78 per cent of people didn’t like the fact that they could not smoke. This is because they considered themselves as free adults, who could take responsibility for their own actions.
As a conclusion, in the twenty-first-century people shouldn’t be told what they can and can’t do in regards to their own personal space. Prisoners have their rights in a democratic society as well as other people in it, which means that the law should provide a freedom of choice as long as it does not harm the freedom of other people.