Risdon Prison, run by the government, opened in 1960. Although Risdon is an adult prison, it has always housed small numbers of teenagers under the age of eighteen, some of them wards of the state. In 2013, it continues to accommodate some young people aged 16 or 17.
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.
1821 - 1960 Campbell Street Gaol
1960 - Risdon Prison
Sources used to compile this entry: Social Services Department: report for the year ended 30th June 1960, Social Services Department, Hobart, 1960; Department of Social Welfare: report for the year ended 30th June 1965, Department of Social Welfare, Hobart, 1965; Department of Social Welfare: report for the year ended 30 June 1970, Department of Social Welfare, Hobart, 1970; Department of Social Welfare: report for the year ended 30 June 1977, Department of Social Welfare, Hobart, 1977; 'Women say jail visit refused', 11 August 1977, p. 8; Department of Social Welfare: report for the year ended 30 June 1979, Department of Social Welfare, Hobart, 1979; Department for Community Welfare: annual report for the year ended 30 June 1984, Department for Community Welfare, Hobart, 1984; Evans, Caroline, A 'Pink Palace'? Risdon Prison, 1960-2004, Department of Justice, Hobart, 2004, 128 pp; Neasey, FM, Report of an inquiry into the system of classification of prisoners in Tasmania and other related matters, Department of Justice, Hobart, April 1993, 94 pp; Ombudsman Tasmania, Review of claims of abuse from adults in state care as children - Final Report - Phase 2, June 2006; Sub-Committee of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Institute of Welfare Officers, Report and recommendations of the care and treatment of 'Socially maladjusted teenage girls' in Tasmania, Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Institute of Welfare Officers, Hobart, 1975, 18 pp; White, Rob, 'Prisons', in The companion to Tasmanian history, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005, http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/P/Prisons.htm.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 9 March 2012, Last modified: 23 October 2018