1903-21: A New Prison for Women

The No.2 Division of Boggo Road, which is now the only part of the prison left standing, started life in October 1903 as 'HM Prison for Women, Brisbane', also known as the 'Female Division'.

It was the first purpose-built prison for women in Queensland, and the design and construction were state-of-the-art. The comptroller-general of prisons wrote that it was 'a credit to the State' and 'one of the best constructed prisons in Australia'.

Scenes from the Female Division 1903-21 (click to enlarge images)

'Circle' area of the Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, c.1916.Quadrangle area of the Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane c.1912.
Matron's Quarters, Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1903.Warder's quarters, Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1903.
Hospital block inside the Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, 1903.Prisoners in exercise yard, Female Division, Boggo Road Gaol, 1903.

It replaced the womens' prison at Toowoomba, and the smaller lockup for females at Fortitude Valley, and all the women from those facilities were transferred to Boggo Road. The majority of these women were serving sentences for petty crimes such as vagrancy, stealing and indecent language. Many were prostitutes.

The number of female prisoners was always quite small for the 80-cell prison. In the early months there was a daily average of around 40 inmates, but by 1921 this figure had fallen to just 13. The Comptroller-General of Prisons attributed this decline to the introduction of the 'Liquor Act 1912', which restricted women from obtaining alcohol, and also to the improved ability to classify and separate prisoners, keeping the frequent offenders apart from 'first-timers'.

With the male prison overcrowded, the decision was made to move the women to a smaller facility on the Boggo Road reserve and move male into inmates their former home, which was now renamed as No.2 Division.


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