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Prison staff prepare for smoking ban 20 July 2007

PRISON staff are undergoing training courses in order to offer smoking cessation counselling to prisoners wishing to quit smoking in advance of a total ban being implemented at the new jail from March 2008.

A group of prison staff have already been trained in courses organised by the Public Health Directorate, Department of Health and Social Security. Tobacco Strategy Co-ordinator, Anita Imberger, is working together with the prison, arranging further courses to enable more staff to be trained.

Home Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle MHK said:

‘The implementation of the ban will require sensitive management and the needs of prisoners will be taken into account – this is why we are offering counselling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

‘The decision to implement a smoking ban followed surveys of prisoners and staff, which resulted in a recommendation from senior prison managers who took into account the implications for both staff and prisoners. That led to the Department deciding not to seek an exemption in the No-Smoking Premises Regulations 2007 brought in by the Department of Local Government and the Environment.

‘As I informed Tynwald last week, we are aware of a legal challenge to a total ban at Rampton high security psychiatric hospital buildings and grounds, which was implemented in advance of the UK’s smoking ban. The outcome of that court case, due to be heard in September, will be considered, and if deemed necessary, our policy will be reviewed.

‘There is, however, a strong resolve to implement a no smoking policy at the Isle of Man Prison. Feedback from surveys shows the majority of non-smokers want protection from secondary smoke. Jurby prison has modern anti-barricade doors, meaning that cells are not airtight and would allow tobacco smoke to pollute the non-smoking areas of the wings. The new prison has been designed with prisoner safety as a priority and each cell has ligature-proof windows that allow trickle ventilation only. Tobacco smoke would not disperse quickly in this environment.’

Mr Quayle continued:

‘I am aware that permitting smoking in external yards would not cause exposure to secondary smoke but prison management are against this because of the difficulties in policing it. Tobacco would have to be issued to prisoners going on to the yards and taken from them again when they returned. This would create potential difficulties and flash points with large numbers of prisoners on each occasion. In order to effectively police an external yards-only smoking policy it would be necessary to search every prisoner returning from the yard. Prison managers estimate that would mean searching up to 42 prisoners at one time – and the prison would not have the time or staff to do this.

‘The Department Members and I are aware that this is a sensitive issue and we have asked senior managers at the prison to update us regularly on the implementation of smoking cessation strategies at the prison. It is worth noting that, to date, only one prisoner has registered a complaint about the ban with the Board of Visitors.

‘We have to balance the difficulties in imposing a ban with the potential problems of permitting smoking in parts of the prison environment, and enabling prison officers to work in a smoke free environment. The emphasis of the new jail is to rehabilitate prisoners and there will be significantly more opportunities for education, including physical education,’ he added.

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