Bandyup butting out

Changes are being rolled out at a WA prison ahead of going smoke-free later this year.

The smoke-free pilot program at Bandyup Women’s Prison is up and rolling, according to a Department of Justice spokesperson.

This comes after the WA Government announced the prison in Middle Swan would go smoke-free from October 31, with gradual changes beginning after the announcement on August 10.

The smoke-free pilot has the backing of relevant unions and stakeholders and is a step towards a smoke-free policy for WA prisons.

The spokesperson said staff, prisoners and visitors welcomed the pilot, and engagement and participation in smoking reduction strategies were well received.

“Support to go smoke-free includes information packs, nicotine replacement therapies, free access to the Quitline and peer support programs,” the spokesperson said.

These support services, in addition to pre-existing smoking reduction strategies, are a part of the well-planned and measured approach the Department of Justice said they are taking toward the pilot.

Although it’s too soon to identify any changes in the workplace environment, the priority remains on the health and safety of staff, prisoners, and visitors.

Smoking causes health issues
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in Australia. Photo: Ben Chapman.

However, WA Prison Officer’s Union secretary Andy Smith said he had concerns that the government may have committed to a date that is too soon to effectively stub out tobacco in Bandyup Women’s Prison.

Mr Smith said he understood that the pilot was still primarily in the planning stage, he believed changes to operational procedures inside a prison could require anywhere from 18 months to 2 years.

“Our fear is that because the government have said it’s going to happen on this day [October 31], they’re going to rush it through and not put into play all the correct measures that ensure a safe introduction.”

Andy Smith

The looming date set by the government poses a serious risk in terms of time constraints and only having a couple of months to plan the pilot.

Western Australia and the ACT are the only jurisdictions where smoking is allowed inside prisons, and Mr Smith believes all WA prisons “absolutely have to be” smoke-free in future.

A 2021 review of smoking in WA Prisons by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services found that 82 per cent of people in WA prisons were active smokers, compared to 11 per cent in the community.

Male smokers stood at 81 per cent, while the proportion of female smokers was 84 to 87 per cent.

Smoking is the most common cause of preventable deaths in Australia, and passive smoking inside prisons leads to an unsafe workplace.

One of the stated purposes of the pilot is to provide inmates with a rehabilitative journey during their time in jail.

The pilot will continue to roll out the smoke-free policy ahead of Bandyup Women’s Prison going free of all tobacco products from October 31.

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