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Union Says Prison Smoking Ban Needs More Resourcing

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Richard Wagstaff
Richard Wagstaff

More resources are needed to implement a new smoking ban in prisons as its impact will put both staff and new inmates at greater risk, says the PSA.

The smoking ban takes effect on July 1st with no more tobacco allowed to enter prisons from June 1st

The PSA, with close to 3,000 members in Corrections, says members support the idea of a smoke-free workplace where they will not be subjected to passive smoking, but they have grave concerns about the impact of the ban during the first 24 hours of incarceration.

"Prisoners are most at risk in the first 24 hours of imprisonment. This is when new inmates are most vulnerable and most likely to harm themselves and others," says the public sector union's National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

"Obviously going to prison is a highly stressful experience. Add to this having to quit smoking and you have a potentially explosive situation.

"Our members believe the additional stress of quitting smoking will result in more new inmates being deemed "at risk" by prison staff. This will in turn put more staff at risk - especially if more resources are not brought in to deal with the increased risk.

"Prison officers have saved hundreds of prisoners in recent years from committing suicide. Dealing with a suicide or an attempted suicide can be very disturbing and many guards suffer post-traumatic stress from such an experience.

"The Department says this policy is in part to make the working environment safer for staff but ironically it could end up making it more dangerous and stretch prison staff even more than they are presently.

"It's essential that sufficient staff are on hand to deal with any incidents swiftly and safely, but our members say this ban comes at a time when staff to prisoner ratios are already bare, especially when absent staff are not replaced.

"The Corrections Department needs to effectively manage the smoking cessation programmes that will run concurrently with the ban, especially in considering how best to avoid increased risks for new prisoners and those guarding them," says Richard Wagstaff.

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