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Prisoner's rights

Health and disability

Drug and alcohol problems

Can I smoke cigarettes or tobacco in prison?

Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, s 5; Corrections Act 2004, ss 129, 179AA

No, prisons are smoke-free environments, which means you’re not allowed to smoke anywhere.

Can I get help to quit smoking?

Yes. Prisons can provide you with anti-smoking nicotine patches. They also have counselling and programmes available; these will vary from prison to prison.

Can I get support for alcohol or drug issues?

Corrections Act 2004, ss 49-52, 123

When you arrive at prison you must have an initial health assessment that identifies any physical or mental health needs. These needs must be addressed by the prison. Help with alcohol or drug issues should form part of your needs assessment.

Help with alcohol and drug issues can be provided in rehabilitative programmes provided by prisons. However, sometimes there’s a waiting list or some programmes won’t be available. You can also be refused access to a programme if the prison staff think you won’t benefit from it, but they must have a good reason for this decision.

Some brief alcohol/drug programmes are often now available within some prison remand units. Other prisons also have specific rehabilitation units solely related to alcohol and drug treatment – these are basically residential (live-in) rehabilitation units within the prisons. These programmes can run from between three to six months, and prisoners can be transferred between prisons so that they can go to them.

To find out about what drug and alcohol assistance is available in your prison, talk to your prison case manager. Alcohol and drug issues often form a key part of a prisoner’s release plan.

Can I get methadone treatment for addiction?

If you’re on the methadone programme when you arrive in prison you can stay on it for a certain time, but you don’t get put on methadone if you’re not on it already. Usually the prison medical staff try to get you off your methadone programme as quickly as possible after you arrive in prison. The methadone will be handed out to you daily by the nurses and you’ll have to take it in front of them.

Do I have the right to attend my AA or NA meetings?

No, you’re not allowed to leave prison to attend meetings of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous). However, some alcohol/drug counselling and treatment is available within the prison system.

Can I get drug/alcohol counselling or treatment if I’m on segregation?

Often the group alcohol/drug treatment units aren’t segregated, so you have to come off segregation to be able to attend these programmes or courses. However, sometimes courses, programmes and even whole residential programmes are run as a segregated programme and then you can attend on a segregated basis. But the wait list for these programmes is often quite long.

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Health and disability

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Lag Law: Prisoner's Rights

Lag Law answers heaps of common questions you might have if you’re going to prison, you’re in prison, or you’re getting out of prison. It talks about your rights in prison, and sets out the laws and rules that affect you when you’re put in prison . 1 free copy for people in prison and the whānau of someone in prison. If that’s you, email laglaw@wclc.org.nz for your free copy

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