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Implementing smoke-free prison programs: Ensuring collaboration and safety

22 Jul 2014, by Informa Insights

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50% of smokers are dying from a tobacco-related illness.  With 80% of the prison population being smokers, smoking bans have started to be implemented across prisons in New Zealand, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Controversy lies as to whether a ban on smoking is really the best way of reducing smoking within prisons, with concerns being raised around tobacco becoming part of the prison contraband trade and whether such bans are considered an infringement on human rights.

In the lead up to the 5th Annual Correctional Services Healthcare Conference 2014, we had the chance to speak to Suzanne Golby, a Clinical Nurse of the NRT program at Brisbane Correctional Centre (BCC), who will be leading one of the presentations on the ‘First Movers Smoking Ban Update’.

Suzanne has been part of the implementation of the “Tobacco and Smoke Free Corrective Services Facility Plan” at the Brisbane Correctional Centre (BCC) and so has hands-on experiences with the barriers and success of the program to date.

Suzanne: My portfolio at Brisbane Correctional Centre (BCC) as a Clinical Nurse, encompasses the “Quit Smoking” program. I am the “Quit Champion” for my centre and have represented BCC on numerous occasions through workshops and seminars.

As a successful now, non-smoker, I have genuine empathy for nicotine dependent offenders who choose to quit smoking and educate offenders who need to quit smoking. I am highly motivated to support and educate them through their quit smoking process. The smoking cessation program has provided me with an excellent opportunity to practice proactive nursing care. I believe that the smoking cessation program has long term positive health benefits for offenders, Correctional Centre staff, Nursing Staff and their families.

My role has primary been to support the collaborative implementation of the “Tobacco and Smoke Free Corrective Services Facility Plan” at BCC. My key responsibilities included:

  • Establish, facilitate and maintain regular contact between the Department of Health’s Preventative Health Unit, West Moreton Hospital and Health Services and Queensland Corrective Services through Local Working Groups that have been established in each Queensland Correctional Centre to support the smoke-free transition.
  • Provide current and evidence based information, education, resources and practice support strategies for Nursing Staff and advice and support for Correctional Officers at BCC.
  • Develop, initiate and co-ordinate smoking cessation education sessions for offenders.
  • Collect, collate and provide regular reports on data related to offenders commencing the Nicotine Replacement Program (NRT).
  • Monitor and manage NRT stock levels including patches and lozenges stockpiles located in the Health Centre, Bulk Stores and Reception.
  • Formulate and maintain a spreadsheet for offenders commencing the NRT program including their accommodation unit, commencement and finishing date of program.
  • Liaise with Bulk Stores to develop, maintain and monitor a safe and efficient distribution process for offender NRT.

The key barrier faced in trying to implement this program within a prison setting is working across and between the necessary different objectives of the Department of Health and Queensland Corrective Services. To accomplish smoke-free prison implantation, collaboration between both services was critical. Only through the Local Working Group co-operation was this accomplished to the level that the smoking cessation support was integrated within the daily core business of BCC.

The main priority within any Correctional Centre and understandably so, is safety and security. The goal for the Queensland Health is to support and maintain health and wellbeing.

In September 2013 the initial Local Working Group comprising of representatives from Health and Corrections was established with tasks and locally targeted implementation strategies. This also provided a venue to suggest, share and comment on the smoking cessation program in a supportive, collegiate environment. An effective partnership was built, reflecting the mutually beneficial outcome of a smoke-free prison environment.

Successful achievement of the smoking cessation program has portrayed an example of how to improve the healthcare needs of prisoners. Since then we have also commenced education sessions for diabetics and envision more proactive nursing care through education.

Through attending and being given the opportunity to speak at the conference, I am hoping to share my positive experiences with the “Tobacco and Smoke Free Corrective Services Facility Plan”. Many of the presentations are particularly relevant to my Correctional Centre, specifically the Northern Territory’s evaluation of the Smoke Free Policy at Darwin Correctional Centre. Our collective learning and experience will ideally assist other jurisdictions working towards their own smoke-free prison implementation process.

The 5th Annual Correctional Services Healthcare Summit 2014 will take place on the 28th and 29th August in Melbourne. For more information about the conference program and to register, please visit the Correctional Services Healthcare Conference website.

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