- Date published:
9:17 pm, June 28th, 2010 - 63 comments
Categories: health, prisons - Tags: smoking
I’m supportive of the government’s move to end smoking in prisons. I think the real winners will actually be the two thirds of prisoners who smoke. They will be forced to break their addiction. I don’t think there’s any serious justification for concerns that banning smokes could lead to more trouble in jails or that the prospect of not getting any ciggies will be enough to deter crime (after all, there are many other great things that one misses out on in jail already).
But it’s disappointing that Corrections didn’t even bother to consult with the union first. A good employer should always consult with the union over an issue that could potentially have a big impact on the workers.
On the topic of tackling smoking, I didn’t really think that putting up the tobacco excise tax should have been the government’s first option. Simply putting the up the price punishes addicts and their families, there should be some non-financial ways to disincentivise smoking without taking money out of the pockets of the poor.
The suggestions by Jeffrey Wigand warrant more examination – particularly the ideas of removing branding from packaging, forcing companies to detail the ingredients, and (most effective of all I would reckon) removing the taste improving additives.
Getting rid of the retail displays also needs to happen – is Tariana Turia still working on that or has she given up?
As suggested by Zet last year and Peter Williams yesterday, phasing out imports and domestic commercial production could be another tool. People should still be allowed to grow tobacco for personal use (along with other plants).
On a side note, while researching this I saw an article on pig blood being used in cigarette filters. That should be a worry to Jewish and Muslim smokers. Interestingly, the Indian Mutiny started because of a rumor that new bullet cartridges (which were ripped open with the teeth) were greased with pig and cow fat – using them would have violated the soldiers’ religious convictions.
This policy is cruel and unusual punishment. Its another facet of the vengeance approach to justice.
Making people feel nervous, twitchy, and stressed is certainly unusual, but I don’t know about cruelty. Fortunately, permanent withdrawal cures the symptoms rather than temporarily relieving them. 😛
I’ve no problem with trying to get people to stop smoking – I never started as I had better things to do with my money than setting fire to it. However I am aware of how addictive it seems to be, and what happens to addicts when they can’t get their fix.
I personally have little doubt that the truth behind this is pure, malicious punishment, and it’s going to cause trouble in the prisons. Even guards who smoke will have designated areas for smoking – but prisoners won’t because, according to Stuff, Corrections Manager Barry Matthews said it would be problematic for staff having to shepherd prisoners outside for cigarette breaks and provide lighters!!! I can’t imagine it would be that much more problematic than staff having to shepherd prisoners into the mess for meals and to provide them with knives and forks.
Judith Collins on the PM programme was full of the help prisoners would be give to quit before the implementation date next July. Fine for those in prison now who know they will still be there then, but what about smokers convicted after July next year? They’ll have to do cold turkey.
Collins also said it was because of concerns about health and safety of prison staff and to prevent legal action by staff and prisoners re second-hand smoke, both easily met by providing a roofed open air venue for prisoners to smoke.
I foretell that it won’t be long before action is lodged against the Govt. on the basis that requiring prisoners to go cold-turkey on smoking amounts to ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, and this Govt. has egg all over its face again.
i don’t doubt it’s a vengeance thing for the Right as well, but I don’t think that makes it wrong in itself. I think the benefits for prisoners will make it worth it, and rethinking crime and punishment agrees.
There’s no constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment in NZ and in the US it hasn’t been found unconstitutional.
We do have laws against torture (Crimes of Torture Act 1989).
“Act of torture means any act or omission by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person”
I’m told that withdrawal is pretty horrible.
On the other hand, I assume that our jails do the same to heroin addicts and alcoholics too.
Methadone is available for Heroin addicts allowing them to maintain their addiction. Withdrawal is not the aim, from what the guy was saying on checkpoint last night.
He also made the point that for many prisoners, (up to half?), there are alcohol and other drug dependencies that they are having to cope with. Having cigarettes available helps with this in terms of a replacement/coping mechanism.
Considering that prison has higher rates of people with mental illness going into them, and up to 90% of people with schizophrenia have tobacco dependence and nicotine can help them cope with this. http://www.enotalone.com/article/3110.html
It would be punishing patients who should be in the mental health system. That’s unconscionable.
Wonderful point about mental health patients being packed into the prison system. Should be made more often when the ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’… see, now all of a sudden it appears I’m talking about our crooked government….anyway, where as I?
Ah, fuck it. Today’s snippet of wisdom.
Lock ’em up and throw away the Key.
Ward 9B (Psychiatric ward in Dunedin).
They looked to ban smoking for patients. Backed off because of human rights issues. If the same person winds up in jail instead of Ward 9B…and that can happen easier than most might want to believe, then why should they suddenly be subjected to an enforced regime of abstinence?
To be clear, I’m talking of the same person engaging in the same behaviour that due to the arbitrary nature of our systems can see them either treated or punished.
And when prisons are privatised, is anyone under any illusions as to where the balance of patient or inmate will tilt?
Last I heard, methadone is stepped down by half dose increments on a day by day basis for inmates. There is no maintenance and no humane stepping down and off. Just the very fucking cruel punishment of quick withdrawal. I heard the same comment you refer to and thought that either a) that’s not right or b) things have changed.
Given this governments attitude towards humanity, I’m going with a)
Really? Can a leftie, a supporter of Labour’s effort to punish smokers, say that with a straight face?
Well the rich white racists who wrote the US constitution obviously were generic sadists as well.
Rethinking crime needs to do some thinking re crime.
Smoking is an addiction, a private jail is not a hospital or a clinic.
This regime are thieves, liars and sadists.
Lets abolish private property and see how many people still smoke first.
Giving up smoking can be a real pain. I know, as I have managed to do it. That said, this ban is more pathetic New Zealand wowserism.
There is no nonpaternalistic reason to ban smoking in prisons. Simply have areas in which inmates and employees who smoke can do so without irritating others. When I smoked, I never minded being asked to keep to a smoking area. I didn’t even mind bars banning smoking inside. But there is nowhere for prisoners to go because they’re imprisoned. This is equivalent to the state banning prisoners from masturbating.
I can’t help but feel there is an unsubtle hint of puritanism in this ban, and in the general public attitude towards smokers. It’s quite funny how things change. 50 years ago, nobody cared about what you ingested, but everyone cared about who you had sex with and how. Now you can have sex with pretty much anything and nobody will care, but the puritanism has shifted to food and suchlike. The wowsers never really go away.
hmm. we don’t let people smoke on the grounds of the state’s other great compulsory institutions – schools…and yeah, that’s kids and all but a jail is people’s homes and work places.
And its the workplace of Prison staff , who not only deserve a smoke free workplace , but are entitled to one by law.
When it comes to opposing rights Im with the law abiding citizens
Given that you don’t believe banning smoking will act as a deterent/is a suitable punishment, then why stop at just prisoners?? Why not ban everyone?? I can’t think of an argument which would apply only to prisoners.
how about – it’s a place of work and it’s a place where non-smokers are involuntarily confined.
Common areas which staff share with prisoners: a workplace. No smoking indoors, no smoking within X metres of the building.
A cell in which a prisoner is forcibly confined for 12 or 13 hours a day, and into which staff do not venture other than in an emergency: Their “home” (since they have the choice of no other) where, like the rest of us, they should be free to smoke.
Yes, there’s a practical issue: double (and more) bunking and the fact that around 80% of the prison population smoke means non-smokers may be forced to share with smokers. The answer to that, of course, is to stop shoving petty criminals into our prisons. In jurisdictions which don’t have this problem, prisoners are allocated cells (and room mates) on the basis of their smoking status.
And thus one avoids risking staff health, avoids infringing prisoners’ human rights, avoids a potential riot (and thus risk to staff) but, alas for the vote-hungry pollie, avoids cheering from the cheap seats by a bizarre alliance of “let’s watch ’em suffer” rednecks and control freak socialists.
I’d be interested is seeing any research on how effecticve involuntary cessation programmes are. From what I understand, you have to want to give up to even start breaking an addiction.
“Banning smoking is different from quitting. Requiring people to give up smoking while in prison will undoubtedly have health benefits but these benefits are lost if they recommence smoking after release. There is no evidence that simply banning smoking is effective in reducing smoking rates over the long term. Quitting smoking while in prison and maintaining this in the postâ€release period would undoubtedly save prisoners’ money and could be part of the overall rehabilitation process. However, this has yet to be demonstrated.”
How about Basher does the work of the warders for a week or two whilst implementing this retributive policy? I have always worked on the principle that you dont ask people to do what you would not do yourself, especially if it is dangerous….Basher appears to have no such principle.
But its not Basher its ‘Collared’ Collins.
Punitive measure that further reinforces the view that prisoners can be treated anyway those in charge like. Forced labour, not being able to vote, crating, double bunking etc.
Yes giving up smoking would be good for these people, any person in fact, but it should be properly resourced and encouraged rather than imposed.
This sort of petty extra punishment will ensure that the NZ penal system remains nothing more than a dumping ground and â€˜feel good’ measure for the “hang ’em high’ brigade.
I agree, and not all prisoners will have a year to give up as people will be sentenced all the time, and then be suddenly expected to go through withdrawls in their first weeks of prison.
I’m all in favour of supporting people through quitting if they want to, and I’m certainly supportive of taking smoking out of workplaces where nonsmokers like myself may have to be … but Jesus Christ, Marty, could you be more condescending? “We’re going to force you to completely give up a legal activity with no apparent provision for smoking spaces/quitting support, but it’s for Your Own Good! Be thankful, filthy smoking scum!”
I’m pretty sure that’s not what Marty said. After all , there will be quitting support.
which is not 100% successful or comfortable. Not even close.
This probably needs to happen in order for smoking legislation to be consistent across all workplaces.
BUT it’s quite disingenuous to pretend that the well-being of prisoners is in any way a consideration.
After all, this is not a government of compulsion, right? They don’t believe in forcefully engineering socially desirable behavioural changes via the brutish route of legislation, do they?
Or has that all changed now?
I can’t help but feel some alarm at this measure.
Until relatively recently even oil rigs allowed smoking, (though only in one specially built containment room).
Anyone who has ever visited psychiatric institutions or prisons are often struck by the large population of smokers.
One of the reasons posited for this, is that smoking is termed a form of “self medication” that people in stressful situations will turn too.
Though smoking is obviously bad for the health of inmates, many whose health is probably already compromised by their stressful life experiences, (incarceration being only the latest insult).
The question I think should be asked is this:
Is removing this obvious source of comfort for people under stress, humanitarian, or punitive?
If it is punitive, is this punishment warranted?
If this is being done for health reasons, is it being done in a humane way?
Most reasonable people would have to answer no, to both these questions.
Seems pretty bloody dumb to me. There is no doubt it will cause aggravation inside.
Govt intervention in smoking drives me bananas. If they are serious just ban the fucking shit. All this diddling around the edges. Govts. No cred. No wonder they took up 9 of the bottom 10 spots in that ‘people we trust’ survey. When will they ever learn?
Well their objective especially Turia’s is to ban tobacco
Wonder where they gonna get the billion$ in taxes from they will lose when they ban it
oh thats right theyll jus raise the taxes on everything else
I will move to OZ than give up smoking
This country is losing the plot
A PC police state, our liberties are slowly being eroded and without a mandate to do so.
Does anyone out there know of any prison system in the world where this has been trialed, or is the accepted policy?
What are the results?
Are these prisons by their nature more repressive?
Andrew Geddis has a good piece up on pundit where he mentions the experience of the Isle of Man, though the change was to make the island somkefree, rather than the prison specifically:
(Sorry, just noticed PB linked to the same post below)
Smoking in the 2000s occupies a similar role to gin in 1890s Britain, drawing on the same sort of self-righteous instinct to tell others what to do while side-stepping their real difficulties. If you look at world health statistics, smoking would seem to play a smaller part in general health than we are lead to believe, since nations who are heavier smokers than we are often have longer life expectancies than we do. I am not saying that smoking does not cause harm, but I am sure that the chronic insecurity brought about by low wages, unreliable employment and insecure housing causes far more harm. Not to mention degradation and contempt, which apparently affect the immune system. The banning of smoking in prisons is yet another expression of this smug contempt for others – another punitive measure taken for someone else’s “own good.” And as with drugs in prison, it will probably not be fully implemented as prison guards, unlike Ms Collins, have to deal with these edicts at the coal face, and do not have absolute control over what happens there.
Olwyn I can’t but help agree
I think that this says it all, really.
The fact is that Judith Collins campaign against smoking in prisons is an authoritarian and punitive top down approach. And by not being motivated by the well being of either the inmates or the guards, like all imposed authoritarian and undemocratic solutions is bound for catastrophic failure.
Far more effective methods of giving up smoking are available. The most successful method of changing behaviours is to reward positive behaviour.
If inmates voluntarily commit to giving up smoking ( if indeed this is the serious wish of Collins et al.) then inmates should be rewarded for efforts to give up, with increased privileges. Maybe increased visiting time with loved ones and family members in more conducive and less restrictive environments, based on the amount of time they stay smoke free.
But this is just me.
Those who should really be asked to give their ideas on the best methods to lessen smoking in prisons are the guards.
That the guards have been ignored in the making of this decision is a glaring omission symptomatic of the authoritarian punitive approach displayed by Collins.
This is just another National party spin, smoke screen, while they are loading the truck with the gold out back, treat people like animals and they will behave like animals.
They think prisoners are lower than dogs 🙁
Andrew Geddis raises some good points here:
(debunks the ‘isle of man’ meme, points out that the ‘support’ will probably not eventuate if the past is any guide)
To be consistent, no person should be allowed to stand for parliament or be employed by any part of the public sector including contractors to government, unless they can say they are not a smoker. Already MPs are not allowed to buy alcohol from minibars unless they pay for it themselves; that should be extended to National Ministers, and thought also given to banning all alcohol from parliament or for purchase by any MP (including National Ministers) while on official business even if they pay for it themselves.
If we are going to tell people how to live their lives, we should make sure that our representatives and those that work for us set a good example.
This is an opportunity for Judith Collins to justify her ‘Crusher’ nickname, and for the NACT government to make New Zealand world leaders.
Agreed, give them a taste of their own medicine 🙂
Is the smoking ban to be confined to convicted prisoners or to prisoners on remand? To prison staff? To prison visitors?
the gnats have shot themselves in the foot this time.
I think it is fatal.
Like dude who do they think they are.
Time to change the focus of the debate and find a solution as opposed to playing fucking tennis on the ‘tough on crime’ court.
How about this.
We know that mental health patients are wrongly locked up in the prison system.
We know that prison officers are not trained or equipped to deal with inmate’s mental health issues.
We know that many patients/inmates have drug addictions.
We know that drug addiction is indicative of underlying issues.
We know that prison officers are not trained or equipped to deal with addicts’ underlying issues.
So why don’t we have a tiered system whereby any sentence where addiction is present in the person being sentenced, an option of admittance to a secure, well funded, staffed and resourced drug rehab unit is offered? And when the addiction has been dealt with (physically and psychologically…maybe the latter to a degree rather than completely) the actual jail sentence commences?
Would that lead to drug free prisons?
Not saying the above is perfect. Many of the same questions of human rights exist. But it would exhibit a concern about drug use rather than a concern for cruelly imposing a whole other layer of punishment on those unfortunate enough to have an addiction.
You’re essentially right. But class smoking as an addiction and implement your scheme and you’ve got ~80% of prisoners in a “secure, well funded, staffed and resourced drug rehab unit”. Better to turn every prison into such a facility.
Better yet to get serious about drugs in the community and thus reduce the offending that puts most people in prison in the first place.
The NATS don’t care about other people than their own moneyed class considered superior, and when ‘ordinary’ people are judged criminals then they are scum humanity to them.
The warders are at a higher level but still come under the heading of disregarded ordinary people. I think the suggestion that this is about MONEY is the major reason – preventing possible future claims from warders about unhealthy conditions from smoking, the rest is just class distaste and punitive attitudes towards the strugglers immersed in the poverty and criminal culture.
There are foreseeable difficulties from this latest witchhunt against addiction no longer accepted by the middle and upper classes as is alcohol. Celia Lashlie on Nat Radio referred to the addictions that are countenanced by the middle class being treated differently.
Caution about the methods of introduction have been voiced by people who understand about prisons and the culture of those incarcerated. One comment by Kim Workman I think, was that those on remand, even for short-term, will be forced into an immediate program of withdrawal. Angry, violent people will become even more so. And in those not in a single cell, anger is likely to lead to attacks. The prisons can’t cope at present as is shown by the attack and death of one warder.
These right-wing people assume the autocratic mode of decision-making and prefer the punitive approach for other, lesser people who fail to comply with the law, and are always willing to dismantle any protocols protecting standards of human behaviour when given a chance.
The NATS don’t care about other people than their own moneyed class considered superior, and when â€˜ordinary’ people are judged criminals then they are scum humanity to them.
and Labour cares? Labour under whose sadistic watch we had the largest growth in the prison population after passing punitive legislation after punitive legislation. Clayton Cosgrove summed it up for Labour this morning on the radio when he said he doesn’t care about prisoners.
Yes I was shocked by Cosgrove this morning. It seems that as far as PC goes, callous is the new black – to say that prisoners should be treated humanely is tantamount to saying, in the seventies, that women belong in the kitchen.
Thought I hadn’t been pooped by a raven recently. Trouble is you seem to be right more than occasionally. There must be some flaw in your logic if I look hard.
For all those that aren’t considered worth standing up for………
And for those who won’t stand up for fear of losing the next election.
Hangman (aka the smiling assassin)
by Maurice Ogden
Into our town the Hangman came,
Smelling of gold and blood and flame.
And he paced our bricks with a diffident air,
And built his frame in the courthouse square.
The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
Only as wide as the door was wide;
A frame as tall, or little more,
Than the capping sill of the courthouse door.
And we wondered, whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal, what the crime
That the Hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.
And innocent though we were, with dread,
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead —
Till one cried: “Hangman, who is he
For whom you raised the gallows-tree?”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
“He who serves me best,” said he,
“Shall earn the rope of the gallows-tree.”
And he stepped down, and laid his hand
On a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for another’s grief
At the Hangman’s hand was our relief
And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn
By tomorrow’s sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and no one spoke,
Out of respect for his Hangman’s cloak.
The next day’s sun looked mildly down
On roof and street in our quiet town,
And stark and black in the morning air
Was the gallows-tree in the courthouse square.
And the Hangman stood at his usual stand
With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike
And his air so knowing and business-like.
And we cried, “Hangman, have you not done
Yesterday, with the foreign one?”
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed,
“Oh, not for him was the gallows raised.”
He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:
“Did you think I’d gone to all this fuss
To hang one man? That’s a thing I do
To stretch a rope when the rope is new.”
Then one cried “Murder!” and one cried “Shame!”
And into our midst the Hangman came
To that man’s place. “Do you hold,” said he,
“with him that was meant for the gallows-tree?”
And he laid his hand on that one’s arm.
And we shrank back in quick alarm!
And we gave him way, and no one spoke
Out of fear of his Hangman’s cloak.
That night we saw with dread surprise
The Hangman’s scaffold had grown in size.
Fed by the blood beneath the chute,
The gallows-tree had taken root;
Now as wide, or a little more,
Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,
As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,
Halfway up on the courthouse wall.
The third he took — we had all heard tell —
Was a usurer, and an infidel.
“What,” said the Hangman “have you to do
With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?”
And we cried out, “Is this one he
Who has served you well and faithfully?”
The Hangman smiled: “It’s a clever scheme
to try the strength of the gallows-beam.”
The fourth man’s dark, accusing song
Had scratched our comfort hard and long;
“And what concern,” he gave us back.
“Have you for the doomed — the doomed and Black?”
The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,
“Hangman, Hangman, is this the man?”
“It’s a trick,” he said. “that we hangmen know
For easing the trap when the trap springs slow.”
And so we ceased, and asked no more,
As the Hangman tallied his bloody score.
And sun by sun, and night by night,
The gallows grew to monstrous height.
The wings of the scaffold opened wide
Till they covered the square from side to side;
And the monster cross-beam, looking down,
Cast its shadow across the town.
Then through the town the Hangman came,
Through the empty streets, and called my name —
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall,
And thought, “There is no one left at all
For hanging, and so he calls to me
To help pull down the gallows-tree.”
So I went out with right good hope
To the Hangman’s tree and the Hangman’s rope.
He smiled at me as I came down
To the courthouse square through the silent town.
And supple and stretched in his busy hand
Was the yellow twist of the hempen strand.
And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap,
And it sprang down with a ready snap —
And then with a smile of awful command
He laid his hand upon my hand.
“You tricked me. Hangman!,” I shouted then,
“That your scaffold was built for other men…
And I no henchman of yours,” I cried,
“You lied to me, Hangman. Foully lied!”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
“Lied to you? Tricked you?” he said. “Not I.
For I answered straight and I told you true —
The scaffold was raised for none but you.
For who has served me more faithfully
Then you with your coward’s hope?” said he,
“And where are the others who might have stood
Side by your side in the common good?”
“Dead,” I whispered. And amiably
“Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me:
“First the foreigner, then the Jew…
I did no more than you let me do.”
Beneath the beam that blocked the sky
None had stood so alone as I.
The Hangman noosed me, and no voice there
Cried “Stop!” for me in the empty square.
Well said, just saying.
He he he he he 🙂
Just saying, great comment 🙂
Just in case anyone thought I wrote the poem (I wish) – I’m not Maurice Ogden. I just added “smiling assassin” to the title:-)
Kudos for great poem choice then 🙂
I would think that if smokers are a minority of the prison population, it would be easy to create a non-smoking unit, or even prison. Those who seriously want to quit could ask for a transfer there.
To sweeten the pot, the non-smoking unit (or units) could be sited closer to family or main population centres with more privileges.
capcha – liked
Of course the above policy would only work if the Minister was even the slightest bit serious in persuading inmates to give up cigarettes.
I think most people realise that this is not what motivates Judith Collins to implement this policy.
Let’s be clear this policy is vindictive, punitive and repressive, it will lead to hardship and resentment in the prison population. If she has been listening to her advisors, or the officers of the Corrections Association, Collins knows this is fact, but she couldn’t care less.
This policy has nothing to do with getting inmates to give up smoking.
Collins is indulging in populous pandering to the conservative extremes of the political right out of callous self interest.
Will Judith Collins give a commitment to accept responsibility if guards or prisoners are harmed in the forced implementation of this unrealistic policy?
I doubt it, the mark of a bully is that they are also a coward.
capcha – cure
Anyone who has ever worked with addicts (booze, fags, gambling, sex) will tell you the key is that the addict has to want to stop. You can’t force people against their will to break a habit. If prisoners want tobacco badly enough they will find a way of getting it.
This is just another National “feel good” policy designed to placate the redneck rump of the party.
Johnny Cash also summed this type of prison approach well
“San Quentin, what good do you think you do…..
I continue to struggle with how right wing the Labour Party has become since earlier times. This stuff was known then and we’ve gone so far backwards in so many areas that many of the left think small victories are gains when they are still a reinforcement of the right.
I am in total support of a smoking ban in prisons, for one thing it will bring it into line with all other work places & at the end of the day some prisoners might even thank the authorities for getting rid of their unhealthy & expensive habit, & for some corrections staff to be saying that tobacco is the best tool they have is in itself pathetic, so time to start looking for some real tools to deal with prisoners behaviour wouldn’t you say.
I had to laugh the other evening when watching TV & hearing human rights lawyer Michael Bott saying words to the effect that prisons are a dangerous & toxic environment, well he got that right didn’t he with all that smoke currently being inhaled by both prisoners & prison staff.