A RIOT broke out at Cumbria’s only prison when a peaceful protest about a tobacco ban turned ugly.
Police are investigating the incident at HMP Haverigg which was only resolved when specialist riot cops were called in.
Cells were flooded, while sinks and TVs were trashed after it was announced to inmates that tobacco would no longer be sold, The Mirror has reported.
Damage is understood to have run into the hundreds of thousands according to prison sources.
Elite anti-riot officers have been deployed to Birmingham prison tonight to reports inmates have overrun one of its wings.
Unconfirmed reports say one wing at the Category B jail has been “lost” after trouble flared this afternoon.
G4S, the firm that runs the prison, and the Ministry of Justice confirmed they were dealing with an “incident” contained to one wing but no further details were immediately available.
It is unclear if there have been any injuries in the disturbance but authorities said there is no risk to the public.
On Twitter, a West Midlands based criminology lecturer claimed the prison’s Wing A was “severely damaged” as inmates were heard chanting “we want burn” – which is prison slang for tobacco.
The Independent reported the Birmingham prison riot, without mentioning the cause: the smoking bans which are gradually being introduced in UK prisons.
Chris Snowdon has a good piece on it: Send ASH To Prison.
There is no better way of predicting the future than listening to what Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) have to say and preparing for the exact opposite. Whether they are claiming that high taxes don’t cause smuggling, or that smoking bans are good for pubs, or that it makes economic sense for shopkeepers to stop selling cigarettes, the truth can invariably be found by turning their statements at an angle of 180 degrees.
So when prison officers saw this in 2015, they should have been reaching for the tear gas…
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health, said there was no evidence to support claims that depriving prisoners of tobacco could lead to riots.
He cites a 2015 article by the abhorrent toad Deborah Arnott in (of all places) New Scientist, which begins:
A letter from a non-smoking prisoner with lung cancer, distraught because he was forced to share his cell with smokers, convinced me that smoking in prisons is an issue of human rights. If anything, more so than in public places such as pubs and bars because prisoners have no choice about whether to be there or not.
This opening passage tells us rather a lot about the Toad’s thought processes. She will select just one letter from a single “distraught” prisoner on which to base her conviction of the need for a prison smoking ban, damn the rest of the prisoners.
Why should the rights of this single prisoner apparently outweigh the rights of the other 80% of smoking prisoners to something prisoners have enjoyed until now?
(I’m a little puzzled, incidentally, why this prisoner should be “distraught” about sharing his cell with smokers. Does their smoking make his lung cancer worse? Are there studies that have shown this happens? If he’s going to be distraught about anything, shouldn’t it be about having lung cancer? And if she’s going to base her entire case on a single letter, shouldn’t we be allowed to read it?)
The bulk of the rest of the New Scientist article is devoted to downplaying the likelihood of riots in prisons when smoking bans are introduced (and which are now happening). It ends:
The cultural change that has taken place everywhere else in society needs to be extended to prisons so that inmates and staff no longer have to put up with the harm caused by second-hand smoke. After it happens, just as with pubs and bars going smoke-free, we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about.
There has no more been a “cultural change” in society than there is a “cultural change” going on in prisons. In both cases, the law is being is being used as a blunt instrument to change people’s behaviour. And in the latter case, actual real blunt instruments are being used to enforce this behaviour.
Real cultural changes take place as people gradually change their minds about matters of concern to them. e.g. smoking, climate change, the EU. Often this is the result of prolonged debate. At any one point in time there are usually people on both sides. And at any one time there is a majority on one side or the other. But this natural process of cultural change ends as soon as one opinion or other becomes enshrined in law. The UK smoking ban of 2007 marked the point when a natural process was frozen in stone, and the rights of the 20% minority of smokers were entirely crushed by an appeal to the rights of the 80% majority of non-smokers.
By rights, in prisons where 80% of prisoners are smokers, their rights should carry far more weight than those of the 20% of non-smokers, and smoking should be allowed everywhere in prisons, in exactly the same way as it is prohibited everywhere outside them.
Nor is there any “need” to extend a cultural change that has taken place in one part of society to another part of society where it has not. In the UK, in a slow natural process of cultural change, the 80% of smokers who used to outnumber the 20% of non-smokers 60 or 70 years ago have been replaced today by 80% non-smokers and 20% smokers. But this cultural change has not also taken place in prisons, where prisoners remain 80% smokers, 20% non-smokers. Why should prison populations be forced to conform to cultural changes that have taken place outside their walls? Why should anyone be forced to conform?
Nor is it the case, “just as with pubs and bars”, that “we’ll all wonder what the fuss is about,” for this assumes that we’re “all” of one mind on the matter, when this is almost invariably never the case. We are only “all” of one mind if we choose to close our ears to dissenting opinions. We are only “all” of one mind about the UK smoking ban if we count only the opinions of the 80% of non-smokers, and ignore the 20% of smokers. And Deborah Arnott can only manage to be “convinced” of the need for prison smoking bans if she only counts the complaint of a single non-smoking prisoner while ignoring the opinions of the remaining 99.99% of prisoners (who are now quite properly enraged at the smoking ban that totalitarians like her have foisted on them).