NZ: Prison smoking ban ruled ‘unlawful’

According to the article, this is the second appeal – both successful – of New Zealand’s prison system’s attempt to restrict smoking.  In this latest judgment, the judge reportedly found that “forcing prisoners into nicotine withdrawal is not humane.”

Further:

“…sentences must not be administered more restrictively than is reasonably necessary to ensure the maintenance of the law and the safety of the public, corrections staff, and prisoners. Depriving prisoners of tobacco, an otherwise lawful substance, is too restrictive.”

The result?  The corrections system is still going to be smoke-free, but inmates reprimanded for breaching the ban could receive compensation.

Read more here.

I’ve got to say that I do not agree with this.  Ohio has banned tobacco in its prisons (for both inmates and staff) for several years now.  Prior to the ban, you would have non-smoking inmates complaining about the amount of smoke and the very real threat posed by secondhand smoke.  I have far more sympathy for those inmates than others who are purposefully engaging in self-injurious behavior via tobacco inhalation.

That’s not to say that the ban has not caused problems.  Despite the ban, tobacco continues to be smuggled into the prison like any contraband, but now inmates and staff can sell it for exorbitant black market prices.  Staff spend a large amount of time tracking down contraband that is otherwise legal on the street.  And inmates have said that nicotine withdrawal contributes to violence and/or that having tobacco reinstated would reduce violence.

I still think that the longterm healthcare costs incurred by tobacco use – which the state would have to pay – outweigh the desire to feed a nicotine addiction, which is both harmful and expensive.  Better for people to spend the time in prison kicking the habit for when they are released.

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One thought on “NZ: Prison smoking ban ruled ‘unlawful’

  1. jcommittedk says:

    Wow! Your description of Ohio would be accurate word for word for what happened across Canada. The way the system here dealt with the complaints found to be legitimate in NZ is they offered cessation aids to former smokers free of charge. Another possible solution is to allow e-cigarettes, although I suspect that would lead to nicotine abuse.

    For what it’s worth I agree with you about the smoking ban, even though making it into contraband also has its associated problems.

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