Risdon Prison, which replaced the convict-built Campbell Street Gaol in the centre of Hobart, opened for men in November 1960. It was self-enclosed, meaning that the boundary was formed by its outside walls. These were made of pink concrete reinforced by steel. There was no perimeter fence. Authorities considered it 'one of the world's best' because it had a number of innovations, including flushing toilets, the only ones in an Australian prison. Risdon Prison's modernity and pink colour led The Mercury to dub it the 'Pink Palace', a nickname that stuck.
Women inmates remained at the Campbell Street gaol until 1963, when they moved into a new building at Risdon Prison. It had 23 cells. In the men's prison all the cells opened into an outside quadrangle. However, the indoor areas of the women's prison were enclosed and connected by corridors. Each cell had a flushing toilet and cold running water.
In 1976, Roy Grubb conducted an inquiry into Risdon Prison. During it, he interviewed 200 inmates as well as taking oral and written statements from members of the staff. He was particularly concerned to find that young men of 16 or 17 years of age were there:
'Frankly, I was appalled, during the first week of the Inquiry and then again in August to sit face to face with a sixteen year old boy, committed to the maximum security section of the Risdon Prison for a period of six months.'
The prison administration tried to keep the young man apart from the other inmates.
'Strangely, this lad's complaint to me was that he was kept segregated. He wanted to be treated like the other men. I was at pains to point out to him what this might mean. He remained unconvinced.'
In the 1970s, Risdon Prison also accommodated young women under 18 years of age. However, it was apparently unusual for a girl of 16 years to receive a prison sentence.
In the lead up to the Review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children: Final Report - Phase 2 of 2006, the Ombudsman received five claims of abuse from former wards of state concerning Risdon Prison.
23 October 2018
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/tas/TE00399
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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