Campbell Street Gaol opened as a barracks for male convicts in 1821.
Children's presence in the Gaol was widely accepted by nineteenth century society because of the belief that they could be held responsible for their own actions. However, by the 1860s, this idea was changing. In 1867, the Training Schools Act provided for the establishment of training schools so that children were not sent to prison, although they might serve a 10 day sentence there first. A letter to The Mercury written in 1868 suggests some of the reasoning behind the Act:
'There is at this moment a large number of boys confined in the Campbell-street gaol, and we suppose the gaoler does the best he can…to keep them employed, and to provide for their instruction. There is no provision made for the boys on the expiry of their sentences, and the want of occupation for even our respectable youth makes it apparent that the chances of these discharged Arabs, of gaining profitable employment, are very slender. The result is that the lads again find their way to gaol to " finish" their education, and our rising youth of the neglected classes are left to almost inevitable destruction.'
The writer argued for the establishment of industrial and training schools. A Boys' Reformatory did open in 1869. Even so, according to Joan Brown, in 1875, 53 boys aged between eight and 16 years were in Campbell Street Gaol. Some were serving their full sentences there and others were waiting for a transfer to the Reformatory.
Change came slowly with a similar situation emerging in the twentieth century. During the 1950s, a growing number of youths under 18 were imprisoned at the Gaol. Its lack of segregation from the older prisoners and absence of educational programs and preparation for release made it particularly unsuitable for them.
During the twentieth century, conditions at the Gaol were always bad. In 1908, it was in such a state of disrepair that the prisoners' lives were miserable and they could not be easily managed. There was no segregation of them or programs to encourage their reintegration into society after release. Between that year and 1956 there were numerous inquiries into conditions at the Gaol and three Royal Commissions prompted by prisoner escapes.
The condition of the building, the lack of programs for reintegration into society, and numerous escapes finally led the government to build a new prison at Risdon. It was completed in 1960 and Campbell Street Gaol closed.
23 October 2018
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/tas/TE00559
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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