Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the first anniversary of the ban on smoking in prisons is a significant milestone, with facilities now much safer and healthier for staff and prisoners.
The ban was introduced on 1 July 2011, following a year-long campaign to help prisoners quit smoking.
“Corrections staff and prisoners have already seen great benefits,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Safety is much improved, with offenders no longer having access to lighters and matches. This has meant a 72 per cent reduction in fire related incidents, down from 76 in the year before the ban, to 21 in the year following the ban.
“It has also removed the opportunity for prisoners to use lighters to melt plastic into dangerous weapons.
“Air quality has also greatly improved, with the threat from passive smoking completely removed. A study of Auckland Prison showed a 57 per cent improvement in air quality since the ban was introduced, and staff advise there are fewer prisoners reporting respiratory illnesses.
“Despite scaremongering before its introduction, the smoking ban has been a real success.
“Staff and prisoners will continue to be offered Nicotine Replacement Therapy, as part of a wider plan to treat offenders with addictions.
“Reprioritised funding of $65 million in Budget 2012 will see 33,100 additional offenders receiving new and expanded drug and alcohol treatment in prisons and in the community, an increase of almost 500 per cent.
“This focus on drugs and alcohol, two of the major drivers of crime will contribute to a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017, and 18,500 fewer victims of crime every year from 2017.”