Life in jail gets harder for smokers

THE South Coast Correctional Centre will be smoke-free in 12 months.

Correctional Services NSW commissioner Peter Severin said being a relatively new jail, he hoped the new policy would be easily implemented.

“At the moment prisoners can smoke in their cells and designated outdoor areas,” he said.

“Smoking will be banned in all NSW jails by August 2015 as smoking has a negative effect on health and is highly addictive.”

Mr Severin said he was ready to make the announcement last year, but wanted to wait so programs including the nicotine replacement strategy could be made available.

“We don’t want inmates to go cold-turkey,” he said.

“All inmates will go through nicotine replacement therapy as well as extra counselling.

“We are expecting this will be one of the bigger changes inmates will take in their lives which will be for the better.

“We had to wait for funds to be available from the Justice Health.”

Mr Severin said recent studies showed 17 per cent of people in the community smoke and the rate was declining, however 75 to 80 per cent of inmates continued to smoke.

“Experience in other states and New Zealand which have banned smoking in prisons have been positive. Not being the first cab of the rank we have the benefit of fine tuning this process,” he said.

A pilot program has been completed at Lithgow Correctional Centre.

Prison Officers Vocational Branch chairman Steve McMahon said he had no doubt the new policy would create a contraband issue.

“Overseas models have indicated that is the case and it will always be an issue when there is a ban on something,” he said.

“We expect it will take over from other substances, meaning the contraband line for drugs may decrease.

“A smoke-free workplace is better and healthier … there are a number of our members who are smokers, but we hope they will take this as an opportunity to quit as well.”

Mr McMahon said the implementation of systems such as the nicotine replacement strategy was imperative to limit issues which will “no doubt” arise amongst prisoners as a result of the ban.

“I expect over the next week or two we will hear what the inmates think about the implementation,” he said.

“It will change the dynamic of the prisons.

“When I spoke on ABC radio yesterday, Brett Collins claimed banning smoking within cells was an invasion of prisoners’ civil liberties.

“The government shouldn’t encourage it so I think it is a positive move towards better health in prisons.”

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