The Long Bay Prison Complex has been the site of Sydney's major metropolitan gaol for ninety years.
The prison is situated on the once isolated Malabar peninsular. The Aboriginal Reserve and Coast Hospital for Infectious Diseases (later know as Prince Henry Hospital) were also located in this sparsely populated area.
The Long Bay prison complex comprised various buildings. These included the Women's Reformatory, Male Penitentiary and Prison Chapel.
The Women's Reformatory was the first separate and purpose-built women's prison in NSW, and one of only a few in the world. It was promoted as a modern and humane prison when it was opened in 1909. The prison warders were also women.
The Women's Reformatory contained 276 cells, but in 1909 only an average of 124 women were imprisoned there. The number never rose above the 199 imprisoned in 1916. By 1962 the number of women had dwindled and they were moved to another section of the Long Bay Prison complex, known as the State Reformatory for women.
In 1969 the Women's Reformatory was converted to a low security institution for male prisoners, the Malabar Training Centre. Female prisoners were transferred to the Mullawa Correctional Centre at Silverwater.
The Male Penitentiary marked a significant change in the conditions and treatment of prisoners. Previously imprisoned in overcrowded Darlinghurst Gaol, prisoners' physical conditions improved when the Male Penitentiary opened in 1914. The prison had lighting in the cells and a prison library.
Prisoners were trained in various types of work during their imprisonment. Prisoners learnt useful skills that they could use to gain employment when they completed their sentences.
In the early days of the prison, prisoners constructed buildings, roads and the perimeter walls of the Long Bay complex. Prisoners cultivated food used in the prison and also supplied to Prince Henry Hospital. A baker's oven was installed in 1915, and the prison bakehouse earned a reputation for its excellent bread.
Manufacturing industries established at the Male Penitentiary from 1920 onwards include carpentry and motor construction and maintenance. At the Women's Reformatory prisoners manufactured prison clothing.
The prison chapel opened in 1918 serving various denominations. Prisoners from the Women's Reformatory and Male Penitentiary used the chapel at the same time entering via different doors. Female prisoners sat in the gallery of the chapel, to prevent them from seeing male prisoners.
List of References
- A Randwick Ramble, Randwick and District Historical Society, 1994 (LH919.441/RAN)
- Long Bay Correctional Complex: Conservation Plan (LH711.4/LON)
- W.B. Lynch and F.A. Larcombe, Randwick: 1859-1976, Revised Edition, 1976