The Department’s recent prison projects have commendably placed a high emphasis on cell construction and design that is appropriate for the climate and ensures the maintenance of acceptable temperatures. This represents good planning as temperature mitigation strategies are most cost-effectively implemented in the design phase. The thermal conditions of older facilities were assessed in this review and they present a stark contrast. The temperatures attained at older facilities were highly variable, and at times, dangerous. These older facilities are unlikely to be replaced in the near future given Western Australia’s burgeoning prisoner population and budget constraints, and yet there are no specific plans to mitigate temperatures for the remainder of their lifespan. As a result, a two-tiered system of accommodation quality exists, where some locations present a higher risk to prisoner health than others due to their inadequate temperature mitigation.
West Kimberley Regional Prison is an example of a recently built prison that demonstrates good practice in terms of climate control:
- The orientation of buildings at West Kimberley minimises sun exposure and maximises natural cross-ventilation;
- Buildings are made from low thermal mass materials so that heat is not radiated out at night;
- Large eaves on accommodation units and plentiful natural vegetation limits sun exposure on buildings;
- Prisoners are provided with the option of sleeping in an enclosed outdoor area for night-time sleeping comfort; and
- Air-conditioning in cells only operates when the cell doors are closed so that energy efficiency is improved. Temperatures are set at 26°
There were few temperature concerns during a recent inspection of West Kimberley Regional Prison, despite the hot and humid climate of the area.
The new Roebourne Work Camp and the redeveloped Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison similarly reflect an emphasis on maintaining acceptable temperatures. The Roebourne Work Camp has been constructed from low thermal mass building materials, large roof overhangs provide shade, and air-conditioning is provided in all accommodation. For the Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison redevelopment, the Department specified in the design brief that temperatures must be maintained at 18 – 30°C at all times. Thermal simulations conducted with sophisticated computer software predicted that cells will not exceed these temperature limits, even on the hottest and coldest days of the year.
While new Departmental facilities are well placed to mitigate temperature extremes, the same cannot be said for some older facilities. The temperature data in both winter and summer clearly demonstrated that some older Departmental facilities were ill-equipped to tolerate the temperature conditions of today and were incapable of tolerating any worsening of climate conditions due to climate change. Roebourne Regional Prison, the ‘hottest prison in Australia’, was the most notable example. Roebourne has been the subject of repeated recommendations from this Office to implement climate control improvements. While some remedial work has been undertaken, the conditions remain unacceptable. Similarly limited progress has occurred at Karnet and Bandyup.