Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inmate Booklets

Maitland Mercury, Monday 24 August, 2009

Reaction to this column since June has elicited considerable prison officer’s memorabilia and artefacts. Focus on inmate life in the gaol is equally important but the collection of these pieces is far less extensive. However, there is a fascinating start to a collection on the instruction and regulation of prisoners.

“Instruction and Information for Prisoners”, issued by NSW Prisons Department in 1956 bears the stern warning; “To All Prisoners…You may retain this book so long as you are in the prison in which it was issued to you, but you must return it undamaged before release or transfer.” Issues addressed include “Discipline”, “Classification”, “Venereal disease, treatment of”, and of great importance, “Food” and “Indulgences”. All inmates were supplied 18 ozs. of bread, 1 gill of milk and 1 oz of sugar, however, prisoners undergoing cellular confinement for breaches of discipline were restricted to 16 ozs. of bread for alternate periods of seven days.

“Make Time Serve You”, a booklet issued in the 1960s entreats inmates to “make a resolve that, when the time comes for you to leave, you will have benefited from your stay by being better educated, better trained and better equipped than when you came.”

Changing attitudes towards imprisonment are reflected in the “Inmates’ Physical Fitness and Recreation Curriculum” published by the NSW Department of Corrective Services in 1995. The curriculum, “intended to be integrated with other…programmes such as literacy, numeracy, and non-English speaking background courses”, was compiled “for use by inmates in an endeavour to improve their attitudes to good health and good living”.

These books are invaluable to the ongoing research and understanding being accumulated at Maitland Gaol about the treatment of prisoners during its operation. If you can assist with further information, please contact the staff at Maitland Gaol on (02) 4936 6482 or info@maitlandgaol.com.au.

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