26 September 2023

Prison smoking ban clears the air

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A smoke-free pilot program at the Bandyup Women’s Prison has had the unexpected consequence of promoting an uptick in education participation among prisoners.

Acting Manager of the Prisoner Education Campus, Fiona McGregor said that together with the health and money-saving benefits flowing from the smoke-free initiative, Bandyup had seen culture shift.

“The non-smoking project has definitely had a positive impact on prisoners’ engagement in education and desire to learn,” Ms McGregor said.

“The non-smoking pilot has meant increased engagement in education as some women no longer hanker for a ‘smoko’ break and would rather return to education than stay in the residential wing in the afternoons for a smoke.”

She said this had been complemented by an increased number of Bandyup prisoners attending classes, with greater retention and finishing rates expected in their education and training.

“The women are achieving much improved rates of completion, with fewer dropping out and more wanting to take part,” Ms McGregor said.

The prisoners’ education and training timetable comprises a host of learning opportunities including Certificate I and II courses, literacy and numeracy subjects and work-ready programs such as supply chain logistics, barista training, construction, forklift driving, first aid and more.

Ms McGregor said some of the students currently undertaking Certificate II-level literacy studies at Bandyup were hoping to do a bridging course next year as a precursor to tertiary education.

One of the prisoners described the smoking ban as a case of “out of sight, out of mind” that had helped sharpen her focus on education.

“I’m more alert (at our education sessions) and able to complete tasks and a full day’s schedule,” the prisoner said.

Acting Corrective Services Commissioner, Christine Ginbey said the Department of Justice would assess the impacts of the smoke-free pilot at Bandyup before moving to a staged phasing-out of smoking across all the State’s custodial facilities.

“The Bandyup pilot will help inform the smoke-free rollout and underlines our ongoing commitment to provide healthy and safe prisons for staff and those in our care,” A/Commissioner Ginbey said.

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