Some older Departmental facilities are ill-equipped to tolerate the temperature conditions of today and are unlikely to cope with any increase in temperature extremes due to climate change.

The conditions experienced at older facilities such as Roebourne and Bandyup present a stark contrast to newer facilities such as West Kimberley Regional Prison, which commendably has been designed in a manner that is appropriate for the climate and ensures the maintenance of acceptable temperatures. As a result, a two-tiered system of accommodation quality exists in Western Australia, where some locations present a higher risk to prisoner health than others due to their inadequate temperature mitigation.

Cell temperatures are influenced by a variety of cell design and construction factors of varying effectiveness and cost, such as shading, cell occupancy and air-conditioning. Air-conditioning is the most effective measure to maintain temperatures. Among the publicly run facilities, only Banksia Hill Detention Centre and West Kimberley Regional Prison have air-conditioning to all cells. However, all cells in the privately run Acacia Prison are air-conditioned, as are the majority of cells in the privately run Wandoo Reintegration Facility.

Although 18-30°C is the expected norm at the Eastern Goldfields Prison, the Department has no comprehensive standards on what constitutes an acceptable range of temperatures within its facilities.

Policies and procedures are also lacking. For example, there is no formal identification of prisoners who are heat sensitive, such as those receiving medications that can increase vulnerability to heat stroke. In the absence of policy, prisoner management decisions are made locally. There is some merit in allowing local responses to local problems, and staff deserve credit for their management of prisoners in difficult conditions with limited resources. However, the lack of policies (such as using common air-conditioned zones at times of excessive heat) means that too much can depend on local whim or will.

More generally, the lack of policies and standards undermines the Department’s duty of care to provide a safe environment for prisoners. It is acknowledged that it is difficult to develop temperature standards given the lack of international or Australian guidelines. Nonetheless, temperature standards need to be developed in consultation with local prisoners, staff and relevant experts so that appropriate climate control requirements can be determined and enforced for each facility.

Page last updated: November 13, 2015

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