Wednesday 28 November 2018

The facts according to ASH

It must be a nice feeling to know that you can get away with saying whatever you want no matter how untrue it is. That's been Deborah Arnott's fortunate position as the head of ASH for many years now. The facts are whatever she wants them to be.

At the moment she wants Scotland to ban smoking in prisons. This has been a disastrous policy in England and Wales so, writing in The Sun, she simply changes the facts.

In particular, she says...

Fears of riots and unrest were unfounded, and after prisons went smoke-free the level of assaults and self-harm went down, not up, in prisons.

Eh? What about the massive riot at HMP Birmingham last year in which prisoners set fire to large parts of the prison while demanding tobacco?

Or the nine hour riot at HMP Haverigg a month earlier?

Or the riot at Drake Hall Women’s Prison the month before that?

Or the riot at HMP Erlestoke? All of them directly caused by banning smoking.

As for assaults and self-harm going down after smoking was banned in the long roll-out between 2015 and 2018, where to begin? In the year to March 2018 there was a 16 per cent rise in both self-harm and assaults, including a nine per cent rise in serious assaults and a 26 per cent rise in assaults on staff.

Self-harm and assaults are both at a record high in prisons in England and Wales, according to the Ministry of Justice, with rates rising rapidly after 2015.

This has all been widely reported in the press. You may even recall the prisons minister pledging to resign if he doesn't get a grip on the problem.

Nobody would claim that the smoking ban is the sole cause of rising rates of violence and self-harm but to claim that rates have fallen since smoking was banned is as insane as claiming that the ban hasn't led to riots.

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