Union calls for total ban on smoking on prison grounds

Monday 29 Jun 2015

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has called on the Corrective Services Minister to reconsider his refusal to impose a total smoking ban on prison grounds.

The Minister Joe Francis recently told a Budget Estimates hearing that banning smoking was “a bridge too far”.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said smoking was banned inside prison buildings in around 2008, but is still allowed in outdoor areas, meaning it’s lawful for prisoners to have cigarettes in their possession.

Mr Welch said that made it very difficult to prevent prisoners from smoking in their cells, especially at night.

“We do not want our Prison Officers having to go into cells where someone has been smoking,” he said.

“And because the government has crammed two people into a cell, it is almost impossible for our officers to ascertain which of the prisoners has been smoking and to take any action.”

Mr Welch said passive smoking was a health and safety issue, which was recognised by the government in other areas.

“Smoking has been banned in many public places, including outdoor areas, because of the dangers of passive smoking, and prisons should be no different.

“It’s a health hazard for our members which they should not be exposed to in their place of work.

“The rate of smoking among prisoners is much higher than in the general population, which means the risk to our members of being exposed to passive smoke is also higher.”

Mr Welch said the WA government was lagging behind other states by refusing to implement a ban.

“Every other state and territory in Australia has either already banned smoking in prisons, or is planning to in the near future,” he said.

“Why should Prison Officers in WA continue to be put at risk, when every other jurisdiction is acting to protect the health of prison staff?”

The Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania have already implemented smoking bans in prisons. Victoria will impose a ban from 1st July, and NSW will follow suit in August. South Australia is planning to introduce a trial ban from next year.