1921-53: Three Divisions

Oct 22, 2015 0 comments
By the 1920s there was a need for change in the Queensland prison system. With crime rates decreasing after World War 1, the daily average number of inmates across the State hovered around the 300 mark, despite there being accommodation for 966.

The authorities decided to 'downsize' by moving most of the prisoners, staff and workshop equipment from St Helena Island over to Boggo Road in 1921. The island prison would remain open, but used for 'the cases with the best hope of reclamation'. In other words, the worst inmates were sent to Brisbane.

Gallery: Scenes from Boggo Road 1921-50

Male staff at Brisbane's Boggo Road Gaol, 1941.
Male staff, Boggo Road, 1941. (BRGHS)
Sign over the gates of No.2 Division, changed from 'women' to 'men' in 1921.
Sign over No.2 Division gates, Boggo Road, adapted from 'women' to 'men' in 1921. (BRGHS)
Aerial photo of Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1929.
Aerial south-west view of Boggo Road in 1929. (State Library of Queensland)
Boggo Road's No.2 Division and adjoining workshops, 1930s.
Layout of No.2 Division and new workshops, 1930s. (M Brewer) 
Boggo Road itself was reorganised by moving the female prisoners - who for years had rarely filled even a quarter of the available cell space in their 1903 prison - to a small timber building on the south of the prison reserve. This structure had once been a VD hospital, located within the grounds of the Brisbane General Hospital. Both the main prisons were now used for males only and became known as the No.1 and No.2 Divisions.

An enduring mark of this change can still be seen over the front gates of No.2 Division. The sign that once read 'H.M. Prison for Women' had the letters 'Wo' plastered over so it now read 'H.M. Prison for Men'.

The new workshops were opened in 1929, on the eastern wall of 2 Division. These were connected to 1 Division by an underground tunnel and in this way provided work for prisoners in both divisions. The former workshop block of D Wing was converted into a cellblock, so 1 Division now had A, B and C Wings, while 2 Division had D, E and F.

The prison stayed like this until 1950, when the female prisoners were transferred to another building on the reserve. This had formerly been the VD hospital, now rendered obsolete by the discovery of Penecillin. Their former prison became No.3 Division in 1953, used to house short-term inmates confined for vagrancy or drunkenness.

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