Manx prisoners hunger strike against smoking ban, 2008

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Timing
Time Period:  
April 29,
2008
to
May 10,
2008
Location and Goals
Country: 
Isle of Man
Location City/State/Province: 
Douglas
Location Description: 
Victoria Road Prison
Goals: 
To lift the ban on smoking in the prison.
 

The Isle of Man (also known as Mann) is an island British Crown Dependency, located between Great Britain and Ireland. On March 30, 2008, a ban on smoking in public places came into effect. This ban also included smoking inside the Victoria Road Prison in the capital city of Douglas, in an effort to “provide clean air” for prison staff and inmates. The Department of Home affairs also hoped to encourage the prisoners, most of whom smoked, to break their nicotine addiction.

In the weeks leading up to the ban, inmates horded cigarettes and prepared to smoke in secret. After running out of real cigarettes, some inmates resorted to smoking tea wrapped in pages of the bible. According to a friend of one of the inmates, 16 of the 32 inmates in the A wing of the prison began a hunger strike against the smoking ban on April 29, 2008. That day five prisoners refused their dinners. Two days later seven inmates refused their lunches and regularly refused meals thereafter. All inmates who participated in the hunger strike still accepted water. Prison staff pointed out that, although the inmates refused their issued meals, prisoners could still have had access to food from other prisoners and the prison shop.

Prison officials had prepared for the ban by implementing optional nicotine replacement therapy for inmates, under medical supervision. The Department of Home Affairs considered the possibility of allowing inmates to smoke in the external yards, but decided that the policy would be too difficult to enforce, as prison staff would need to issue cigarettes to inmates, then search the inmates before they returned indoors. The prison management also claimed that allowing the inmates to smoke for one hour a day would worsen their withdrawal from tobacco.

Prison staff officially noted a maximum of nine participants by the end of the hunger strike. On May 6, only one inmate continued the hunger strike. The final prisoner ended his fast on May 10. Prison medical staff monitored the hunger strike participants to ensure that none of the inmates had compromised his or her health.

In August 2008, Tynwald, the legislative body of the Isle of Man, closed Victoria Road Prison and transferred all inmates to Jurby prison, the only operational prison on the island. The smoking ban persists, and prisoners have taken no further actions.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"Isle of Man Prisoners Go on Hunger Strike Over Smoking Ban." Iomtoday. 01 May 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/isle_of_man_prisoners_go_on_hunger_strike_over_smoking_ban_1_1773172>.

"Prison Hunger Strike Ends." Iomtoday. 12 May 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/prison_hunger_strike_ends_1_1771445>.

"Prisoner Ends His Hunger Strike." BBC News. 11 Sept. 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/isle_of_man/7610764.stm>.

"Prisoners on Hunger Strike." Isleofman.com. 01 May 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://www.isleofman.com/News/article.aspx?article=10876>.

"Prisoners Continue Hunger Strike in Smoking Ban Protest." Iomtoday. 06 May 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/prisoners_continue_hunger_strike_in_smoking_ban_protest_1_1773267>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jennifer Trinh, 02/04/2011