Protests similar to those seen at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison are a “real possibility” as a smoking ban looms, the Corrections Association President says.
Beven Hanlon told TV ONE’s Breakfast that supplies of cigarettes are starting to run out in the country’s prisons ahead of a tobacco ban kicking in on July 1.
“There is a bit of tension around, there’s a bit of rumour and innuendo about what will happen. As of last week they’re starting to run out so prisoners aren’t allowed to purchase them anymore.
“Having something like this (protest) happen just puts the idea a little more firmly in people’s minds.”
Five inmates from Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison are expected to face disciplinary action and police charges after climbing on top of the prison’s roof in a day long stand-off with guards.
The protest started on Tuesday afternoon when one prisoner was told his security rating was being upgraded.
Hanlon said reports that it was due to an inmate’s cigarettes being taken were not true, but he remains concerned about the impact of the tobacco ban.
“The members have been telling us this has slowly been building for several months now,” he said.
“The prisoners have known this (ban) has been coming for 12 months, some of them have accepted it and have been putting on the nicotine patches and some haven’t.
“It’s what happens with those that haven’t and whether they’re going to rebel or not. Overseas they’ve rebelled, it’s a matter of wait and see unfortunately.”
Hanlon said he wants extra guards in riot gear ready as a “visual deterrent” to any prisoners struggling without cigarettes.
Corrections Minister Judith Collins said prison staff would not bow to the pressure of protesters.
“Get prepared to get really cold and really hungry because corrections isn’t going to stand for that kind of behaviour,” she said.
She has ordered a report into the Hawke’s Bay Prison protest, but said she supported the approach taken by guards in dealing with the situation.