The weather in Brisbane was still rather wet so its usual beach attractions were not that inviting. In search for an indoor activity I found another ex-prison (in the tradition of the Eastern State Penitentiary, Reading Gaol, and Alcatraz) – Boggo Road Gaol. Although it was never actually called that, starting as HM Prison for Women, then Men
later still becoming Brisbane Gaol, which happens to be on Boggo Road (named after its boggishness after heavy rains)
The section currently standing was the last one occupied by prisoners, into the 1990’s. At the front is the area where prisoner’s families could visit. Prisoners were discouraged from standing in the corners with their visitors as the officers couldn’t check contraband wasn’t being handed over. Despite this, bricks in the ground were loosened and items were hidden there.
Non contact visits were also possible, in this rather sparse room where the conversations were monitored recorded.
Unlike the two penitentiaries I visited previously this gaol was not set up with a central monitoring station, rather there were individual blocks. The remaining blocks are those from Division 2, and although the cells were designed for one prisoner each, sleeping on a hammock, during the 1980s up to three prisoners were accommodated in each cell. The notorious overcrowding led to riots and a subsequent investigation which recommended the closure of this prison.
The cells are still as ‘decorated’ by the prisoners, some beautiful, some mundane and a couple I don’t feel appropriate to share here.
The prison had some notorious inmates, Slim Halliday escaped on a couple of occasions and his cell door was reinforced with additional bolts. Another prisoner had mesh put over the bars on his door to prevent him from tripping up officers. It was later modified to let the prison cat visit him. The cat is buried in this section of the prison garden.
The cells had no plumbing, and prisoners were given a bucket in which to relieve themselves. Each day they got access to the two toilets in the yard during their short exercise time. Those on sanitation duty washed out the buckets at this time too.
Since its closure, Boggo Road Gaol has been Heritage listed and can be visited daily. It is also available to hire for functions, although I’m unsure I’d want to go to a corporate do in an ex-prison!
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