A tall fence with razor wire attached at the bottom and top. Blue sky and some jail buildings in the background.

Prisoners forced to dwell in cells through a scorching Red Centre heatwave should be permitted access to air conditioning as an individual right, a Territory union leader says.The telephone comes two days after prisoners were tear gassed during a riot in Alice Springs Correctional Centre.

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

“Officers negotiated and allowed prisoners to remain in the open court yard of the accommodation block where there’s better venting,” Mr McNairn explained.”Some prisoners took the chance to create a disturbance and started damaging land.

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

“Basically at the present time the dorms are constructed for eight inmates; they have got two bathrooms and 2 showers, and in the minute that you’ve got 16 offenders to a dorm,” Ms Early said.

“It’s been an issue that we’ve been arguing with the department for quite a long time since the terms are inhumane, particularly once you’ve got so many prisoners in 1 room and the prison is not designed for this.”

The men’s section of the prison does not have air-conditioning, Ms Early said, and the extraction fans had been broken,”so there is no circulation at all from the prison”.Ms Early stated she believed that the riot could”absolutely” occur again if nothing has been changed.

“To me the only way that this will be fixed if there’s appropriate cooling systems for the offenders, since it is not humane at a room crammed together, where you have only got minimal bathrooms and also no air.”So they really need to address the overstaffing as well as the conditions of the real cells.”

The notorious Alice Springs prison has been under fire for the past few decades, riots and a number of prison escapes.The Commissioner’s announcement said NT Police were made aware of Saturday’s disturbance but weren’t deployed to attend the circumstance.An investigation into the episode commenced yesterday and prison safety was reinforced after the incident.

NT Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Murphy told ABC Local Radio he would wait to see if Corrections put forward any”criminal referrals” in the episode.”[If that happens] we’ll run an investigation and work through that process and put some fees once the proof is there,” he said.