Temperatures at jail concern Greens MLC
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.