Fewer prison fires since smoking ban - Corrections

Prisoners have been lighting fewer fires than usual since the smoking ban began a month ago, a Department of Corrections spokesman says.

Only four fires were lit last month compared to 14 in June and eight in May. Two were lit by the same person.

Department of Corrections spokesman Brendan Anstiss said the decreased number reflected the impact the smoking ban was having.

"That reduction is really important," he said. "When a fire is lit in prisons you can't just take everyone out on the grassy field. Fires are dangerous in prison – they put staff and prisoners and the public at risk so eliminating the easy ability for prisoners to light fires with lighters and matches was one of the main reasons behind this policy."
All prisons were made smoke-free on July 1. Anstiss said 180 contraband items related to tobacco had been confiscated since then. They included lighters, matches, cigarettes and tobacco.
"There's a few prisoners who are well represented in this number and that tends to reflect the behaviour of prisoners in that the minority will try to undermine systems but the vast majority have signed up and gotten on board of this," he said.
Close to 6000 prisoners had signed up for some form of nicotine replacement therapy, he said.
"Some prisoners have said 'this is a good thing, I wouldn't be able to do it without this policy', and it's been very few prisoners who have said 'this is going to be the end of the world for me'."
Anstiss said staff felt more confident knowing there was less of a chance of fires occurring and they were happy to no longer go home from work smelling like smoke.
He said while there were always serious incidents in prison, like fights, escape attempts and attacks on guards, he hadn't noticed an increase since the smoking ban was introduced.
"We've been well planned for this, we had a 12-month preparation phase and a one-month amnesty phase," he said. "That planning has been very successful."
He said he expected the positive results from the smoking ban to be highlighted in the coming months as a prisoners had the opportunity to purchase tobacco, lighters and matches up until July 1 and prison staff were "simply getting through that stock".