IOM Prison Vape Trial A Success

Posted 23rd February 2018 by Dave Cross
The Isle of Man has been ahead of the curve for many years when it comes to smoking in prison. The Jurby prison implemented the first smoke ban of its type in Europe and has conducted the most comprehensive testing of electronic cigarettes. The results are in and it looks to have been a huge success.

While British prisons wrestled with trying to implement a Smokefree policy last year, Jurby prison in the Isle of Man began their initiative in 2008 – making it the first prison smoking ban across the whole of the European continent. What is surprising is that the IOM’s experience was not factored in to mainland Britain’s rollout of a Smokefree policy.

Jurby discovered that prisoners attempted to manufacture their own cigarettes from banana skins, old tea bags and soaking nicotine patches. This in turn caused a greater problem as they attempted to light them using kettles and plug sockets, which caused more than 800 power cuts.

Consequently, faced with the prospect of reducing these unforeseen costs, trimming the £15,000 nicotine replacement products bill, and curbing the outbreaks of withdrawal-induced violence, Home Affairs Minister Bill Malarkey announced an ecig pilot: “I have been persuaded to revisit this issue by the weight of evidence provided by medical professionals and the availability of an e-cigarette that is specially designed for use in prisons.”

For six months, inmates were allowed to purchase an E-Burn cigalike, specifically designed for prison use, which was previously trialled in Guernsey Prison.

There were fears that prisoners could misuse the E-Burn, or use it as currency. Bob McColm, the prison governor, explained how they could control matters: “We have a whole range of sanctions. We can segregate them, we can remove their property (such as a television if they’ve earned one). They can lose association, they can be fined, it’s a wide range depending on what we find and what our concerns are.”

Over the trial period, officers noticed that introducing vaping to the prison led to improved behaviour on the blocks and more prisoners sought help with smoking cessation.

Behaviour warnings fell by 58% across the six months, power cuts were reduced by 50%, and there was a 42% fall in offender adjudications. Staff believe the prison saved in the region of £8,500 on its previous NRT costs – and there is an earnings dividend from the sale of the cigalikes too.

The monitoring board are said to be delighted with the results and are pushing hard for it to continue. Bob McColm agrees, he added: “We have better behaviour and a calmer, cleaner and safer environment”.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker