Tension mounts over smoke-free jails

From the beginning of the new year all jails in Sweden will be smoke-free. The controversial decision was taken over a year ago, but the imminent ban is starting to cause concern on both sides of the bars.

Tension mounts over smoke-free jails
Photo: Emre Danisman

The rehabilitation organisation, Criminals Return into Society (CRIS), has warned that the smoking ban will create trouble among prisoners who are suddenly denied access to drugs and for whom smoking provides the only semblance of a soft landing.

“It’s going to be really hard for prisoners not to smoke if they’ve just quit drugs, alcohol and crime,” CRIS spokesman Christer Karlsson told The Local.

“There’s going to be a lot of protests and arguments about this in jails,” he added.

Karlsson’s fear is echoed by officials within the prison system.

“Many of the inmates are annoyed and are saying ‘you can’t stop me from smoking in my home’. They see their cells as private and think they have the right to smoke there,” said Lars-Åke Pettersson, the governor of Kronoberg prison in Stockholm, to Svenska Dagbladet.

But according to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, the experience from jails where the ban has already been introduced, such as Gothenburg and Kalmar prisons, has been positive.

Inmates serving sentences of at least one year will be offered anti-smoking medication. Staff and prisoners will be given the chance to attend courses to help them kick the habit.