Federal prisons enact ban on indoor smoking
Inmates in many of Canada's federal prisons are seeing a lockdown on lighters and matches as Corrections Canada implements the first day of a ban on indoor smoking.
Although they are still allowed to keep up to three cartons of cigarettes in their living quarters, inmates in the country's 54 federal facilities are no longer allowed to smoke indoors starting Tuesday.
The policy was created to protect staff and inmates from exposure to second-hand smoke.
Each prison is required to provide increased access to the outdoors, where there are designated smoking areas, and some have banned lighters and matches in favour of stationary lighters that stay outside.
However, exactly how the ban is enacted is specific to each facility, depending on factors such as prisoners' schedules, the level of security at the facility and the "nature of the population," Corrections Canada spokesperson Christa McGregor told CTV.ca Tuesday.
"When this policy was announced in July we allowed each institution to develop its own implementation plan," she said, adding inmate committees were allowed to participate in the planning process. "Each facility has its own schedule and its own factors to consider."
Since October, the prisons have offered smoking cessation programs to inmates, and will provide a three-month supply of nicotine substitutes such as gum, patches and inhalers for anyone who is interested in quitting before April 30.
But cigarettes will still be available at prison canteens, and about 80 per cent of inmates are currently smokers.
Violations will be dealt with through each institution's disciplinary action process, likely resulting in a fine for first time infringement and a larger fine the second time, said McGregor.
But the union prairies regional president Kevin Grabowsky says the guards aren't looking forward to the extra responsibility of enforcement.
"(We're) thinking that some inmates may… revolt or riot," he told CTV Winnipeg. "It may not be tomorrow but it may be somewhere down the line."
It wouldn't be the first time. When no-smoking rules were introduced in some provincial jails, prisoners staged hunger strikes and work refusals. Currently, most provinces ban smoking anywhere on jail property.
Chris Towegishig is an inmate in Manitoba's Stony Mountain Penitentiary and has quit cold turkey, but says for those expecting to be in jail for years, cigarettes remain one of life's few small pleasures.
"Some people… that's all they have. There's nothing else that they have to look forward to," he told CTV Winnipeg.
McGregor admitted cutting off their regular supply of nicotine could contribute to high anxiety among inmates and a "potential for unrest," but said any change in an institution changes the climate, and Corrections Canada thinks this one is for the best.