Isle of Man News - POSTED Wed 05-10-2011

Prison has "lost control" of smoking ban according to chief prison inspector

by Tessa Hawley

Prison has "lost control" of smoking ban according to chief prison inspector

THE Isle of Man Prison has lost control of the no-smoking ban.

That's according to the chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick who inspected the prison in March.

Along with a team from the HM Inspectorate of Prisons he visited the prison in Jurby and found that prisoners were flouting the smoking ban – often in full view of prison staff.

The Isle of Man Prison is Europe's only completely non-smoking prison. The ban was introduced in 2008 following the prison's move from Douglas to the north of the Island.

The report, which has been published today, found that the total ban had resulted in a "large number of negative outcomes".

Nick explained: "Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and creatively engaged in circumventing the smoking ban.

"They boiled up nicotine patches, soaked fruit peel or other substances in it and then rolled cigarettes from the resulting 'tobacco' in pages from dictionaries and bibles held together with toothpaste. Lights were obtained from kettle elements and electrical wiring.

"We saw this happening in full view of staff and were satisfied it was a wide spread and long standing occurrence."

Prisoners were also found to be using lint from tumble dryers and pubic hair to make their homemade cigarettes.


Although Nicotine Replacement Therapy is offered this was also criticised after investigators found nicotine patches were being given out with other medication and did not have to be applied under supervision.

Nick continued: "Quite apart from the unknown health risks of what prisoners were smoking there was bullying to obtain nicotine patches, the good order of the prison was undermined by a widely flouted rule and many prisoners resented its inconsistent enforcement.


"Considerable management time was diverted into tackling the problem but measures such as banning certain types of fruit were just not going to be effective. The prison had lost control of the issue and needed to regain it. If the ban is to continue it needs to be combined with more effective smoking cessation support and a fuller programme of legitimate activity."

The report suggests initiating some changes to the smoking ban such as allowing smoking outside in the exercise areas. It also recommends that regular smoking advice and support clinics should be made available to all prisoners.


Nick concluded: "If prison authorities in other jurisdictions ever consider introducing a similar ban they would do well to look at the Isle of Man experience first."


Mark Kelly, the chief executive of the Department of Home Affairs which has responsibility for the prison, said: "The report has identified issues around the no-smoking policy which was introduced to protect non-smokers at the prison from the harmful effects of secondary smoke inhalation.


"In response to the inspector's comments the department instigated a review of current arrangements and decided to continue the ban with a renewed focus on robust enforcement and effective smoking cessation support."


What do you think? Do you think the smoking ban is a good idea? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below:

Also see: Island's prison criticised following inspection



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