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Air conditioning to be expanded in Roebourne Regional Prison

Joseph Guenzler -

After months of insisting their windsails were sufficient, the Western Australian government has agreed to fund a $10 million air-conditioning expansion at Roebourne Regional Prison to include all cells.

The process will not begin until the next financial year, leaving many inmates to bear another intensely hot summer.

The prison does feature air conditioning but only in cells designated for prisoners with medical conditions and transition cells for those who have been doing outdoor work in the community.

The funding commitment follows a backlash due to the extreme living conditions for inmates.

Mervyn Eades, head of support group Ngalla Maya, told National Indigenous Times Roebourne prison has "the worst living conditions" he has seen in a prison.

"Those buildings are that old, what needs to happen – if they want to keep locking people up – they need to build a new prison, an up to date prison that is culturally appropriate.

"There are no windows, just bars on every cell. Every prison in Perth has windows. In Roebourne it's just bars, and with the heat – whatever it is outside, it is worse inside. It was 50 degrees the other day I swear that in those cells it would have been pushing 60," he said.

To combat the heat, prisoners have been using fans in their cells along with shade cloths that have been installed to control temperatures.

WA Greens MP Brad Pettitt has been pushing for the expansion for a number of months and welcomed the news on Wednesday afternoon.

Following the announcement, Dr Pettitt said he was very pleased that after "persistent Parliamentary questioning" through the Upper House and Estimates, and "sustained pressure from organisations like Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Limited, Social Reinvestment WA, Human Rights Watch Australia, and others, the State Government has finally listened and agreed to install aircon at Roebourne Prison".

"I welcome the Minister and State Government's pivot on this issue," he said.

WA Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston described the move as a significant investment towards prisoner welfare at Roebourne Regional Prison.

"In making this decision we have listened and responded to stakeholder and community

concerns about the potential effects of the heat on prisoners' health and safety," he said.

"This project will factor in the local climatic conditions and challenges posed by installing airconditioning in a humid tropical environment.

"Ahead of this work being completed, the prison's management will continue to be vigilant in safeguarding prisoners' wellbeing through existing practices."

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