Melbourne 2 July 2015. Member for Northern Metropolitan, Australian Sex Party Leader Fiona Patten MLC, has urged the Victorian Corrections Minister Wade Noonan to immediately overturn the ban on smoking in correctional institutions which takes effect today.
“The riots at Melbourne Remand Centre should not have come as a shock to the Minister or Premier, prison officers or Victoria Police,” said Ms Patten. “It’s naive to think that when you erode the rights of an individual who has precious little freedom in the first place they are going to just sit back and take it. Obviously they are going to feel further marginalised and this is exactly what has led to the trouble at the Ravenhall Maximum security facility.”
“Smoking, as we all know, forms an integral part of prison life,” she said. “Smoking rates are high amongst prisoners where it is used as a stress reliever and social lubricant, and when you consider that those who have mental health issues are more likely to smoke, then those numbers grow disproportionality higher for prisoners.”
“Tobacco is a legal product and whilst the harm caused by smoking is undeniably clear, if someone wishes to smoke, as long as they are conforming with all laws, then they shouldn’t be stopped from lighting up – in the community or in prison.
“The ban on smoking in prison is ridiculous and will just lead to further black-market activities within the prison environment. Already we are hearing reports that a pouch of tobacco previously worth around $50 to purchase legally has been fetching as much as $350 in the lead up to the ban.
“Considering current overcrowding in Victorian prisons, a situation that already contributes to violence, removing a form of stress relief and minor freedom borders on cruel.
“I wonder if prison officers have a designated area where they can smoke on their break if they choose? What a double standard.”
“One might question the positions of both the Attorney-General Martin Pakula and Mental Health Minister Martin Foley, Ms Patten said. "Do they support the erosion of people’s basic rights as well?”