The mere fact that the government is using a phased roll-out is indicative of the instability everyone is sure will ensue following the 'removal' of tobacco from prison. I use removal in inverted commas because all staff who smoke will still have to be on site when smoking, and therefore those whom are known to contribute to the inflow of contraband will still legally, and without question, be able to bring in their tobacco. So, tobacco will not be eliminated from the prison grounds. It will just be that the prisoners are excluded from partaking, overtly. The removal of their own tobacco will simply lead to other sources being utilised. Prisons are an environment where limitations breed solutions. Other habits, and other drug habits, which may give them the same relief, will be acquired. As Ben Gunn notes it is likely to increase the use of heroin as it is an available alternative. This is not an isolated statement. The introduction of drug testing saw an increase in heroin use as marijuana stays in the system for up to 30 days whereas heroin only lasts 24 hours. Therefore, one habit was traded for another to avoid detection. Heroin does seem the more likely option, although I know many prisoners, who like many of us who have smoked in the past, have simply picked up a bad habit and will be happy for the opportunity to give up.
But, that's a minority. And 'gang psychology' is not to be underestimated here. All prisoners are still under the new Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme following Grayling's inception in 2010. Many will still be bitter about those changes and will want to rebel against yet another privilege being lost. It is easy to be 'written up' and to lose your enhanced status on the IEP scheme meaning that maintaining any form of privilege in prison isn't easy. I've watched prisoners beg not to be written up for very small slights of behaviour, and cry when finding out they've lost another visitation. It was almost impossible to console them. Their anger 'against the system' ever increasing. When prison already sets up for failures in behaviour, which it then punishes further, which incites further misbehaviour, the removal of tobacco is begging for further disruption and violence that HM Prison Service cannot currently afford.
Grayling's method of exclusion continues
However, the government have gone one step further. Since 2010 it has attacked: the right to vote (The European Court of Human Rights has found the UK to be in breach of human rights by banning some inmates from voting during elections), the right to read more than a few books and receive support from your family (Grayling's unsuccessful ban on books) and now the right to smoke: one of only two recreational, legal drugs which most of the 'outisde' population in the UK partake in. Whilst alcohol is banned in prison that is because of its ability to incite violence. Smoking does not have such an effect on a person's behaviour. Withdrawal symptoms, for the first few weeks, however, will make this much more likely. Particularly when people use smoking as a way to have five minutes to themselves, and to take a break from what's going on around them, possibly reducing violent interactions. All of these changes and attacks on basic personal freedoms make the government's stance very clear. And, the prisoners know what the message is too: you're excluded from society.
In a time of some optimism surrounding Michael Gove's appointment and his call for 'reform' in the prison service, which he recognises to be failing, such a statement is not as benign as it first appears. Whilst punishment is supposed to create this difference between offenders and non-offenders, and create a hierarchy of privilege and rights, when viewed in the wider context it can be seen to be reflective of the government's stance towards prison policy. That is to be 'saying one thing, and doing another'.
Such exclusions will not support offender reform as Michael Gove claims he wants to achieve. It will increase anti-government attitudes, alienate an entire population further, and in all likelihood, dismantle many established forms of stability the prisoners have created for themselves. It can therefore be seen that this is not simply an isolated attack on prisoner's privileges due to a wider health initiative, but is part of a wider dismantlement of their rights, and an approach to increase their exclusion. Exclusion which is known to be counter-productive to any efforts of reform or rehabilitation.
Added to this, a governor who has experienced a successful smoking ban in his prison said the following:
"We haven't had any problems and I think that's to do with the way the prison was operating. We had very good order and control, we had very good staff-prisoner relationships and the environment was right to introduce the ban. There are some prisons where you wouldn't do this, you know, where there wasn't work, there wasn't enough employment for people, there wasn't education courses."- David Matthews, Les Nicholls governor, Guernsey.
With such a lack of work, employment, education and an increase in drugs, violence and instability, it could not be said to be a less sensible time than now to introduce further disruption to HM's prisons.
Ben Gunn's blog: http://prisonerben.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/prison-smoking-ban_5.html?spref=tw - read for further information on disruption to the prison economy which uses tobacco, etc.