I spent the day in prison, (I know a girl like me you may ask) Fremantle prison that is and it was the best $20 I have ever spent in such a long time. I learnt so much, so much so that after a visit here you wouldn’t dare step a foot outside off line.
For some of us the path that lays ahead is not pretty, some of us are:
- Conditioned to be troublesome
- Have some serious issues motivationally, culturally, and behaviourally
- Disabilities that have us act in a manner that is not appropriate nor can we help ourselves through no fault of our own
- Some of us have mental health issues that lead us to be on the wrong side of the law
I don’t believe that everyone in prison is meant to be there but that there is no other place for these souls to go, either through lack of funding or professional help. We don’t all have a money tree or those close to us to guide nurture mentor and support. So unfortunately whether they were meant to be in prison on not Fremantle Prison is a place to avoid.
There is so much reference material available on the net about the Fremantle Prison; this is my take on the visit.
Fremantle Prison back in the day operated for 133 years and ceased operations in 1989 a year after the riot.
It may or not be a bit unfortunate that these conditions are now considered to be inhumane. I’m imaging there would be a few people, (victims) who would dispute that and would wish otherwise, can’t say I blame them.
Bear in mind that anyone of us could end up in prison, think about it. Whilst driving, you check your phone (multitasking), you cause an accident and kill someone, you end up in prison it’s as clear and as simple as that.
The name of the game in this prison was humiliation.
The police van takes you from the courts right up to the processing door. Here you line up, told to strip and sit on the bench; all of your belongings are placed in a bag never to be seen again until the day you are released.
Then one by one you stand out the front naked on a white line marked on the floor and are bodily searched (bend over if you please).
Then the next one and so on and so on, no privacy, eyes are on you.
From here you are led to the open showers, then back to the bench naked and issued with your prison attire (dark green t-shirt, pants, sweatshirt, no hoodies allowed).
A plastic bag with items including a rulebook, that is the most important tool for you while you are in prison (don’t lose it).
The next step is an interview so they can assess any medication needs, skills, and relevant information. I am imagining this is a long drawn out process, probably done in silence as you are still in shock at being bodily searched naked in front of your peers.
The Fremantle Prison sits high on a hill surrounded by a limestone wall, a large part of Western Australia’s history, the prison was built by convicts back in the day. They quarried the limestone; if you look closely at the photo you will see a white line painted on the wall, which was the original level of the land.
|You can see the white painted line below the top wall
that was the original level of the land
You see on the other walls that they are painted white on the bottom section, that’s so you could be seen in the dark, no hanky panky for you (escaping isn’t an option). But what I don’t understand or at the very least horrified about is what happened in the yard, think stabbings rapes and murder (more to follow).
|All the other walls were painted with this better to see you
From here you are lead through to your cell, which is a mere 1 metre by 2 metres, containing a bed and a bucket (toilet), that’s it. Now many things happened with these buckets, such as the contents being chucked over you, you learnt where to walk and where to stay clear pretty quickly.
|One of the doors to a cell|
You notice the nets between each floor; this was to ensure nothing such as furniture landed on you. If you were chucked over the fence you had a reasonable chance of surviving a softish landing sort of, even though you have probably been raped, beaten and possibly stabbed (no one did it, no cameras you see).
The conditions are rightfully dreadful, remaining a prison till the late 80’s. The smell from the pot toilets after closure of the prison took a year to disappear; in the summer the yard temperature reached 55 degrees, no shelter till the latter years.
Fancy being out in that heat for hours on end, no wonder there was trouble.
They had a great mail system that consisted of three boxes:
- Red one for mail
- Green one for banking
- Blue one for requests
The site was paper based, no technology whatsoever:
- No cameras
- No computers
- No TV’s (one in the yard eventually)
When the prison was to hold double the amount of prisoners the remedy was to knock the wall down between cells making the cells 2 meters by 4 meter’s. Yippee that’s double the size of a single cell except of course that now housed two prisoners instead on one, oh well still a celebration of some sort.
If you were confined to solitary confinement, (for your own safety) lucky you, you had one cell that was slightly bigger, with a wee wee yard; you never got to leave your space, regardless of if you were in for 3 months or 8 years. The only other person you ever saw was a guard unless you attended the weekly sermon in the onsite church (think judges, police officers, and informants).
There is a church, only one religion allowed, that I could remember, so no separate worshiping for you. On the grounds of the prison there was added a woman’s section, they also went to the church service at the same time as the male prisoners, however they were upstairs and there was no way you were allowed to utter a word or cast your eyes behind and up to the lofty reaches where they sat looking down on you. Seems odd really that the woman could look at the men but the men couldn’t look at the woman (discrimination in todays terms perhaps).
|Up top for the women, the curtains are closed
then the not to be seen prisoners enter.
Not a word is to be spoken.
There was also a cordoned off gated curtained area, once everyone was seated those who weren’t to be seen got to sit here. Discretion all the way, I’m wondering how excited they would have been to see other prisoners, beats solitary confinement.
You could earn money in the prison and the best jobs were in the kitchen, these jobs were usually for the long termers who just so happen to be murderers. Why would you trust a prisoner with a knife that had murdered someone?
The logic is that most of those crimes were crimes of passion so they were considered to be safe and they were generally long termers. The bonus too was that if you worked in the kitchen you got to shower daily otherwise you showered only three times a week.
|Really, but in those days these signs were needed.
Haven’t we moved on?
|Boil em up|
The pay was great about $32 a week, other work ranged from $8 to $20.
I can’t wait to tell you about life in the yard and how that was monitored and about the riot. There are in fact, still to this day, prisoners who instigated that riot in prison, their sentence was extended.
Long post I know hope you stuck with me
Till next time