H/T Rose and Harley. BBC:
Australian experts are split over whether smoking bans are a crucial advance in prison health or “a bridge too far” that can only spark unrest.
On Tuesday, hundreds of prisoners lit fires, broke walls and smashed windows in a 15-hour riot at a Melbourne prison in what authorities believe may have been a reaction to a smoking ban at the remand facility.
It was one of the worst prison riots in recent memory and authorities and commentators moved quickly to either condemn or support the state-wide prison smoking ban.
Western Australian Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis says his state won’t be following the Victorian model yet.
He says the riot affirmed his decision to reject calls from prison officers for a full ban on smoking in his state’s prisons, where inmates are still permitted to smoke in designated outdoor areas.
“As a former smoker, I can tell you it’s a bloody difficult habit to kick,” he told a Perth radio station.
He says many prisoners are already going “cold turkey” on drug or alcohol addictions, are separated from their family and often suffering mental health issues.
His prison officers are “bitterly divided” on the issue and have warned him a ban could lead to prisoner riots.
“My gut instinct is that banning smoking in prisons is a bridge too far for many people,” he says.
“Prisoners are sent to prison as punishment not for punishment.”
Smoking bans are punishment for smokers, and extra punishment for prisoners. At a second prison:
Tensions are still running high in Victoria’s prison system over the new smoking bans.
Convicted mass murderer Julian Knight has told a Melbourne court that Port Phillip prison is on the verge of a riot similar to the rampage by inmates in the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Ravenhall late on Tuesday.
“I’m currently sitting in a 1,200-bed prison which is in lockdown and on the verge of kicking off here as it did with the MRC,” he told supreme court justice Rita Zammit on Friday.
Knight was in court for a judgment in a case against Port Phillip prison manager Ian Thomas.
He said nicotine patches had not been provided to inmates even though that had been planned as part of Corrections Victoria’s phasing in of a complete smoking ban in all Victorian prisons from 1 July.
Knight said he had been telling the courts for years what would happen if a smoking ban was introduced but had been ignored.
“I think Ravenhall says it all,” he said.
Victorian prisons have been in lockdown since Tuesday’s riots, the worst in Victoria’s history, where inmates smashed doors, windows and fences, started fires and damaged staff areas over the ban.
It’s a lesson in economics 101. In prisons where cigarettes are banned, they sell for up to $20 each, and whole packs of cigarettes can sell for up to $200. This creates a major profit opportunity for gangs, who already have networks for smuggling other things, but cigarettes take it to another level in terms of the profit potential.
And this is also a source of corruption amongst prison employees. If you think from the perspective of a prison guard, they may never be willing to smuggle heroin or cocaine, because of the moral opprobrium associated with those. But when it comes to smuggling cigarettes, you’re violating the same laws of contraband, yet you can see how a lot of guards could say, “Well, what’s so terrible about selling a cigarette? I know I’m breaking the rules, but here I can make a little money. I smoke, he smokes, what’s the big deal?”
…There’s a real paucity of any serious research examining these prohibitions. Does it increase corruption and black markets? Do tobacco bans enrich prison gangs? Are there growing levels of violence associated with this? We don’t have solid answers on any of this stuff, and I think it’s a tragedy that there isn’t any good information.