Climate change risk associated with the prison system in Victoria, Australia. Managing these important institutions into the future?

18:00 Tuesday 28 May




David Rissik (Australia) 1

1 - BMT

Climate change is affecting all aspects of society, including the institutions that have established to support law and order such as the prison system. There is little information about the way in which climate change will affect prisons, but as with most considerations of climate risk assessments and responses, there is a need to consider each facility and its operations individually. Prisons are built to last for long periods of time and include a diversity of designs, material and locations. The associated prison industries and approaches to rehabilitation vary between facilities, as does the role of the different institutions (high to minimum security). BMT were contracted to support the Victorian Department of Justice to conduct a climate change risk assessment on its prison and youth justice facilities. We considered infrastructure risk, operational risk, risk to inmates and their families, and also considered risks beyond prison walls (i.e. to prison industry activities and supply chains). An additional objective of the project was to build capacity and awareness of climate change in an organisation where climate change had not previously been a consideration or priority.

Heat and heat waves were identified as key risks across the entire organisation. They have an influence on activities and operations across the board. Most facilities do not have air conditioners which can be challenging during hot summer conditions. Bushfires, storms, drought, changing seasons and floods were also seen to affect some facilities. The prison system in Victoria has many approaches to manage issues related to extreme events and ensure the safety of staff, prisoners and the community.

In this presentation, I will outline the process we followed in conducting the risk assessments, highlight some of the impacts and opportunities, and show how by undertaking the process, the Victorian Government is helping to ensure that the effects of climate change on all parts of its society are being addressed.