Australia: call for air-conditioners in 'inhumane' cells after outback heatwave triggers prison riot

Prisoners forced to live in cells during a scorching Red Centre heatwave should be allowed access to air-conditioning as a human right, a Territory union leader says.

The call comes two days after prisoners were tear gassed during a riot in Alice Springs Correctional Centre, initially sparked because of plus-40C temperatures baking Central Australia.

According to a statement released yesterday by NT Corrections Commissioner Scott McNairn, the prisoners had refused to return to their accommodation cells due to the heat on Saturday.

Officers negotiated and permitted prisoners to stay in the open court yard of the accommodation block where there is better airflow,” Mr McNairn said.

Some prisoners took the opportunity to cause a disturbance and began damaging property.

Once attempts to negotiate those prisoners back into their cells failed, chemical spray was used in accordance with standard procedure to subdue them and swiftly bring the situation under control.

Conditions at the ageing prison are “inhumane” for prisoners living through such heat, Erina Early, the branch secretary of United Voice Northern Territory, said.

Basically at the moment the dorms are built for eight prisoners; they’ve got two toilets and two showers, and at the moment you’ve got 16 prisoners to a dorm,” Ms Early said.

It’s been a matter that we have been arguing with the department for quite a long time because the conditions are inhumane, especially when you’ve got so many prisoners in one room and the prison is not designed for it.

The men’s section of the prison doesn’t have air-conditioning, Ms Early said, and the extraction fans were broken, “so there’s no circulation at all in the prison”.

With the 50-degree heat, being overcrowded, basically there’s a huge risk and potential for prisoners to basically kick off.”

Read full article