25 January 2022

Julie Edwards: ”[W]e justly talk about the impact of climate change on our environment, our homes and livelihoods and our future generations, seldom do we reflect on the ways in which the existing harms of the prison system overlap with and exacerbate the impacts of climate change for some of the most marginalised in our community. … In December 2018, a riot at Alice Springs Correctional Centre was linked to a heat wave, exacerbated by overcrowding and a lack of air conditioning in cells. Excessive, prolonged heat takes its toll in a variety of direct and indirect ways:  disrupting sleep, causing health problems, and creating conflict. Between January and July 2019, Alice Springs experienced 129 days over 35°C and 55 days over 40°C. … Just last week in Roebourne, a small mining town in the north-west of Western Australia, incarcerated people sweltered through an unbearable 50-degree day in small prison cells without air conditioning. … [W]e need to rethink our justice systems. We require a more humane response that prioritises addressing the underlying causes of offending to drive down the need for prisons in the first place. … This reorientation, from prisons to interventions that hold people to account and support people to lead crime-free, safe and healthy lives, should be seen as an integral part of a just transition to a sustainable future.

(In 2020, the WA Labor government defended the lack of air conditioning in the Roebourne prison, saying “there are some people who literally don’t like air conditioning”.)