Tem­per­a­tures at jail con­cern Greens MLC

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Ali­cia Perera

Greens Min­ing and Pas­toral re­gion MLC Robin Chap­ple has called at­ten­tion to the on­go­ing is­sue of the lack of air-con­di­tion­ing at Roe­bourne Re­gional Prison in State Par­lia­ment last month.

Mr Chap­ple asked Min­is­ter for Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices Joe Fran­cis what was be­ing done about ther­mal con­di­tions at the prison, which is only 17.3 per cent air-con­di­tioned de­spite tem­per­a­tures of­ten reach­ing more than 40C.

The at­tor­ney-gen­eral, rep­re­sent­ing the min­is­ter, said the Depart­ment for Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices had not fin­ished eval­u­at­ing cost-ef­fec­tive cool­ing op­tions, but con­di­tions at Roe­bourne prison were hu­mane ac­cord­ing to the Prison Act 1981.

In its past two re­ports, WA prison watch­dog the Of­fice of the In­spec­tor of Cus­to­dial Ser­vices has called Roe­bourne “the hottest prison in the coun­try” and the lack of air-con­di­tion­ing “in­hu­mane”.

Mr Chap­ple said he was not sat­is­fied with the min­is­ter’s re­sponse to the prison is­sue, which he called “an ap­palling set of cir­cum­stances”.

“This has been go­ing on since 2002,” he said.

“Is (the depart­ment) just putting off the in­evitable? Is there any gen­uine com­mit­ment at all to do any­thing? If there was we’d have done some­thing by now.

“The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion de­fines nor­mal liv­ing con­di­tions as room tem­per­a­tures not ex­ceed­ing 32C.

“Peo­ple start to lose men­tal im­pair­ment over 40C, so man­ag­ing pris­on­ers in those con­di­tions be­comes much more dif­fi­cult.

“We know peo­ple in prison are there for a rea­son and prison is never sup­posed to be com­fort­able. But no pris­oner should be ex­posed to in­hu­mane con­di­tions.”

Mr Chap­ple said the Prison Act made no com­ment about tem­per­a­tures in pris­ons and the fact that 12.5 per cent of pris­on­ers at Roe­bourne suf­fered from di­a­betes made the like­li­hood of heat stress even more dan­ger­ous.

A Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices spokesman said they would “shortly” be­gin col­lect­ing cli­mate data at Roe­bourne prison from a new “ceil­ing vent prod­uct” in­stalled in one of the cells, and in the mean­time used shade sails, mist­ing fans and pris­oner rest pe­ri­ods to man­age hot con­di­tions.

The spokesman said there was air-con­di­tion­ing in the women’s units and in com­mon ar­eas where pris­on­ers spent most of their time dur­ing the day.

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