The 19th century treadwheel, designed by engineer William Cubitt, was a means to “reform offenders by teaching them habits of industry.”[1]  Treadwheels in British prisons provided a way for prison superintendents to exercise and punish prisoners sentenced to hard labour. In Australia, the “Treadwheel” was a secondary punishment for male convicts, handed out by the magistrates, and originally seen as being less repulsive than inflicting corporal pain such as flogging.[2][3] While it was not intended as a punishment for female convicts in the colony, one record has been found (see below).

 

In Britain, treadwheels were first introduced at Brixton and Bury St Edmunds prisons around 1818. A brief description by the BBC explained '19th-century penal treadmills resembled large, wide wheels fitted with steps. Prisoners sentenced to “hard labour” would climb the steps repeatedly, causing the entire wheel to rotate'.[4] The machines were soon adopted at many of the British prisons, and used not only for male prisoners. Female prisoners were also put to labour on them:

In Cold-bath fields prison, [also formerly known as the Middlesex House of Correction and Clerkenwell Gaol ] at the present time, the labour of females on the tread-wheel is regulated in the following way:— The prisoners work nine minutes, and rest nine minutes, and so on for two hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. About one week in every month each female prisoner excused the labour of the wheel. Thus the time spent by each prisoner on the wheel is two hours and a half out of every day and three weeks out of every mouth.[5]

 

In New South Wales, the first two treadwheels, or treadmills, were installed in 1823 at Carter’s Barracks at the Brickfields in Sydney,[6] [7] operated by male convicts and used for grinding grain.

 

In Van Diemen’s Land, (VDL), the first public treadmill, used for grinding wheat, became operational in May 1828 and was located at the Prisoners Barracks, on the corner of Brisbane Street and Campbell Street, Hobart Town.  A second public treadmill was completed in a purpose-built yard outside the Launceston Gaol around 1838[8], sharing a boundary wall with the Launceston Female Factory. A third treadmill was installed at Port Arthur having a short lifespan between 1843 and 1848-9.

 

In VDL female domestic labour was sought-after and rather than being put to work on a treadwheel (a labour-intensive punishment more suited to male convicts) they would be found alternative employment, according to an editorial article in The Hobart Town Gazette, Saturday 27 January 1827:

The Tread-wheel, we are glad to see, is in a forward state at the Penitentiary, which, as far as it goes, will be of great benefit in correcting a certain portion of the male offenders. But another, and a more extensive means of punishment, as well as employment, is wanting for disorderly females. We hope soon to see a range of cells suited for the employment of females, where the present idle hands and waste materials in the Colony, will be converted into use, wealth, and comfort.[9]

However, in 1837 one press commentator eagerly, yet erroneously, anticipated that the Launceston treadwheel was intended for refractory female convicts;

FEMALE PRISONERS. -WE copy the following paragraph from the Launceston Observer:—"The Tread-mill, intended  as a punishment for refractory female  convicts, is now to be finished. Some long wanting in the Factories here and in Hobart Town, since solitary confinement and other methods hitherto adopted for taming unruly spirits, have entirely failed…. [10]

 

There is only one record found of a female convict in VDL being punished on the treadwheel.  On 2 December 1841, for being absent without leave, Eliza Jones of the Atwick 1837, was sentenced to spend 14 [days?] on the treadwheel.  Was this a mistake on her Conduct record (CON40)? Or was Eliza Jones sent to the Prisoner Barracks, being close to her place of assignment?  In VDL the local press were quick to find amusement in a sentence on the treadwheel as handed out by magistrates to male offenders, however it appears that Eliza's punishment may have been authorised by the Principal Superintendent of Convicts, thereby escaping the notice of the local press.

 

For more information on the Treadwheel, please visit  Treadwheels, the ‘everlasting staircase’, as the ‘regulator of the unruly’ [contributed by Terry Newman, 2021]

 

See Also:

Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site: http://www.penitentiarychapel.com/history.htm

 

 

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4w8bVrKRqQDP4fKl0b8XzdW/the-dark-history-of-the-treadmill

[2] The Hobart Town Gazette, 1 October 1825 - Page 2

[3] https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/convict-sydney/treadmill

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4w8bVrKRqQDP4fKl0b8XzdW/the-dark-history-of-the-treadmill

[5] The Australian, Thursday 14 October 1824 - Page 1

[6] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/john-pilger-hidden-history-women-australia-who-rose

[7] http://members.iinet.net.au/~caladenia_new@westnet.com.au/manpower_in_australia.html

[8] THE TREAD-WHEEL. The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 1 September 1838 - Page 2

[9] The Hobart Town Gazette, Saturday 27 January 1827 - Page 2

[10] Bent's News and Tasmanian Three-Penny, Saturday 9 July 1836 - Page 2

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Gaol / imprisonment was a secondary punishment comprising a period of confinement as determined by magistrates and courts. The scope of the punishment for female convicts in VDL is difficult to determine as there were many ways to be gaoled or imprisoned: being returned to the government and sentenced to time at a Female Factory or House of Correction, separate apartments or solitary confinement at the Female Factory or any of the county gaols. Furthermore, hard labour or bread and water punishment would also require supervision in a confined space.

 

The offences occasioning long term imprisonment, often followed by several months of probation, were for more serious crimes such as attempted murder, violent assault, larceny, absconding, receiving and offences against property (arson, damages) while the less serious crimes requiring shorter periods of confinement included non-payment of fines, disobedience and public disorderly conduct such as drunkenness.

 

Every convict woman transported to VDL would have had prior first-hand experience of imprisonment in the infamous prisons of Britain; convict Mary Haigh stated in 1842: ‘The Factory is a great deal less severe than the English Gaols’.[1] For the women too old or infirm to work and no place to live, being imprisoned provided shelter, food and a bed at the government’s expense. Some women possibly preferred the Female Factories to life outside where they would have to fend for themselves, as discussed in an article reporting on the coronial inquest into the deaths of Thomas Vowles (child) and Barbara Hemmings (per Atwick) (Hobart Town Courier, 30 March 1838 p.2):

The very anomaly which exists of complaints on the one hand, of the sufferings and misery of the women confined there for their misdemeanours, contrasted with their usual insolent cry (when spoken to by their masters or mistresses, in private service) of - " Well, if I don't suit you, you can send me to the Factory ;" or, " I'd sooner by half be in the Factory, there isn't half so much work there," is proof sufficient that the code of discipline is somewhere defective or misapplied.

 

Gaols, Female Factories and Houses of Correction

The three institutions where female convicts could be imprisoned were the local gaols, Female Factories or Houses of Correction. 

The term 'Female Factory', often used confusingly and interchangeably with 'Female House of Correction', indicated the role of these institutions as more than prisons. What the new colony needed, according to Surveyor-General John Oxley in 1810, was a 'Well regulated Factory' to teach women 'habits of Industry' so that they became useful to society rather than burdens upon it. https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/F/Female%20factories.htm

 

A ‘house of correction’ is generally defined as ‘a place where persons who have committed minor offenses and who are considered capable of reformation are confined’.[2] 

 

A female factory, in comparison, comprised multiple functions: it was a place of lodging, hiring or assignment, a hospital, nursery, training institution and a place of secondary punishment.

 

The distinctions between Houses of Correction, Female Factories and gaols became blurred after August 1835 with significant changes introduced in the Consolidation Act (see below).

 

Early days

Only three convict women were recorded as being imprisoned prior to 1817: 

 

- Hester Roberts per Northampton and Emu (1815), after absconding from the service of SJ Drummond Esq., was sentenced on 7 Nov 1815 to be confined 14 days and fed on bread and water only during that time. (Hester or Esther Roberts accompanied John Drummond's family to Hobart from NSW as their servant).

 

- Ann Ward arrived in VDL per Active 1813 (and Experiment to NSW 1809): for stealing the the property of her master, John Ingle, she was sentenced to wear an iron collar for a week and to be kept at hard labour in the Gaol (no length of time was specified). Ann may have been the female prisoner mentioned in a Hobart Town Gazette article in August 1816:

On the occasion of His Royal Highness the PRINCE REGENT''S Birth Day, His Honor the Lieutenant GOVERNOR was humanely pleased to liberate seven Prisoners under sentence in the Gaol Gang for various periods; and one female prisoner (wearing an iron-collar) confined in the Watch House. [3]

 

- Judith Quinlan arrived in VDL on the Lady Nelson in 1812 (and to NSW per Providence 1811). In November 1816 Judith was confined in the watch house for eloping with Thomas Murphy (per Indefatigable) from George Town to Hobart where, not having the necessary passes for that settlement, they were immediately apprehended by the police.

 

In  February 1817 the Hobart Town Gaol was opened. Of brick and stone construction, it was built as part of a Public Works initiative in 1815[4].   This, the first 'proper' gaol * in the colony of VDL, was not initially intended for confining misbehaving female convicts, the colony had greater concerns with bushranging and runaways.  Governor Macquarie in letters to Governor Sorell in 1818, considered that there were not enough female convicts to warrant building a gender-specific barracks.  If some form of imprisonment was required for disorderly and ill-behaved females they could be sent to the Parramatta or Coal River (Newcastle) female factories in NSW. [refer to Punishments: Sent to Parramatta and Newcastle.]

 

The gaol was continually subjected to criticism.[5] The many breakouts led to the walls being extended within a few years.  It was located on the south-west corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets. The stocks were located outside the walls of the gaol, and the gallows, which were originally located at the wharf, were re-located to the yard of the gaol in 1828.

 

In cases where women were confined in the gaol, they were initially held in a single room and, as stated by AWH Humphrey when examined at the Bigge Inquiry in 1820, laboured at cleaning tasks:

Q. What Punishment do you Inflict upon the women who behave ill?

A. Confining them to the Gaols and Hard Labour there such as washing for the Prisoners and cleaning the Gaol.[6]

 

 

Ann King (Bass) (per Canada 1817) was possibly the first female convict to be imprisoned in the Hobart Town gaol for any length of time:

BENCH OF MAGISTRATES.—On Wednesday Ann Bass, a crown servant, was brought before a Bench of Magistrates, charged with behaving in a riotous and disorderly manner to her mistress, and attempting to quit her place without leave, contrary to the Colonial Regulations. The charge being most clearly proved, she was sentenced to be put in the stocks 8 hours, at two different periods, with an iron collar placed upon her neck, and to be imprisoned in the county gaol for 3 months. The complaint was peculiar aggravating, this woman having only been released from prison a few days back on a similar case.

The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, Saturday 27 September 1817 - Page 2

 

 

With the increasing numbers of female convict arrivals resulting from direct transportation from Britain to VDL, it became apparent that dedicated facilities were needed for lodging, employing and keeping the women in order.[7]   In 1821, after appeals by Governor Sorell to Governor Macquarie in NSW, separate barracks were completed for confining male and female convicts. The female barracks was known as the Hobart Town Female Factory; built within the Hobart Town Gaol precinct, it was separated from the Gaol proper by a brick wall.  In 1824 a report from Lt-Governor Arthur mentions:

I placed the Small Factory adjoining the present prison, with a view that the Two might, after a new Gaol was prepared, be united as one Factory or House of Correction for Females.[8] [9]

 

 

 

As discussed by Tardiff, 'before the building of the Cascades Female Factory, the women of Hobart Town undergoing punishment were kept in a section of the gaol, where the punishment, according to gaoler William Peichey, was nothing ‘but the Labour of cleaning the Prison, washing the Prisoners Cloaths, and Diminished Food’. The building itself, located at the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets, was in a very dilapidated state.’[10]

 

 

 

 

In 1821 Elizabeth Sidwell (Janus 1820) had two stints in the Hobart Town Gaol.  In June, for repeated drunkenness and insolence to her mistress, Mrs Hull, she was confined in a solitary cell and fed on bread and water for 14 days.  In November, while assigned to E F Bromley, she was charged with repeated drunkenness and neglect of duty as a servant, and gaoled for 2 months;  for the 1st week she was fed on bread and water only. She also had to sit in the stocks 3 times, for 2 hours each time.

 

Mary Gibson (Providence 1821), while also assigned to Dr Bromley, was also charged for repeated drunkenness.  Confined in a solitary cell and fed on bread and water for 1 week, she afterwards performed hard labour at the gaol.

 

 

 

OldGaol

 Hobart Town Gaol, source: Archives Office of Tasmania

 

Developments between 1825 - 1834

In  July 1825 Lt-Governor Arthur complained that the old Hobart Gaol was a ‘miserable Jail’…

‘so insecure that Condition of not one single Felon can with safety be lodged in it; and yet Hobart town, there are generally Two Hundred Prisoners in confinement of the most desperate Character, huddled together within the crumbling Walls of this miserable Prison.[11]

 

Frustrated that over-crowding at the Hobart Town Gaol had defeated any attempt at order and reformation, Arthur also pointed out:

‘throughout the settled districts Hobart Town to Launceston, a distance of One Hundred and Twenty Miles, there is no Court house, nor Jail for secure imprisonment; and hence, whatever Crimes are committed in the Interior, the Criminals are from necessity sent from thence to Hobart Town, which throngs the Jail in the manner I have described’.

 

The same 1825 report mentioned over eighty females were confined at the small adjacent Female Factory, describing it as ‘worse than the Jail!’. A major problem with this Factory was the ease with which female convicts could escape [refer to Hobart Town Female Factory]. Following on from unsatisfactory reports in 1826 that condemned the building, the women imprisoned there, including those awaiting assignment, were transferred to the newly built Cascades Female Factory  in December 1828 and January 1829.

 

The lack of infrastructure, including government store houses (commissariat magazines), in country areas was also hindering prisoners being sent into the interior to the service of settlers.[12] This problem was solved when, after the establishment of seven Police Districts in 1827, government precincts with court houses and gaols were established at New Norfolk, Oatlands, Campbell Town, Norfolk Plains [Longford], and Richmond. George Town already had gaol cells built during the expansion of public buildings in the northern settlements a decade earlier, and 1829 saw the opening of the George Town Female Factory. Launceston’s gaol was built in 1827 and in 1832 the adjacent Launceston Female Factory was completed.[13] As the Police districts extended to nine, and  sub-districts became established, small gaols were built at Bothwell (Clyde district), Swansea (Oyster Bay district), Brighton and many of the smaller towns.  Finally, the Ross Female Factory was completed in 1848.

 

The gaol enclosures in the larger Police District precints evolved over time, dictated by overcrowding and modernisation of facilities, to include a receiving room, gender specific bunk rooms, solitary confinement cells and day rooms, sick rooms, store room, exercise yards, washing rooms, cook house, wash-tub facilities, privies and, importantly, high solid-stone or brick walls.

 

 

Visiting justices were appointed by Quarter sessions to inspect gaols, and correct abuses, and punish refractory behaviour of persons therein. Any five justices at Quarter sessions to have power to make prison regulations. Any breach of such regulations to be punishable in petty cases by the gaoler, and in others by the visiting justices.

By His Excellency's command,

John Montagu.

The Hobart Town Courier, Friday 29 May 1835 - Page 2

 

 

The 1835 Consolidation Act

Around 1835, female convict records began to indicate that imprisonment was gaining momentum as a convenient punishment. Prior to 1835 imprisonment options were to escort the convicted women to a Female Factory, or to hold them in a local gaol that had not been designed to imprison women. One of the triggers for increased imprisonments was the growing distaste for corporal punishment of females, coinciding with the building or renovating of gaols that actually catered for female prisoners.  Furthermore, in August 1835, an Act by Lieutenant Governor George Arthur [14] enacted that every building used as a Gaol in the Police Districts of Hobart Town, Launceston, Richmond, New Norfolk, Oatlands, Campbell Town, and Longford should also be deemed a House of Correction and that the Factories in Launceston and Hobart Town used for the reception of transported female offenders were to become Houses of Correction. The superintendent of either a Penitentiary, Factory or Gaol was given the powers and authorities of a Gaoler. Any prisoner committed to a House of Correction, or sentenced to solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour, could serve their sentence in either one of the Gaols or House of Correction. [15]

 

The Consolidation Act 1835, Clause LXIX.-AND BE IT ENACTED that where any Act of Parliament authorises or directs in any case, a committal to a House of Correction or the passing of a sentence of solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour a committal may be made to or any sentence of solitary confinement or imprisonment with hard labour be carried into effect in either of the said Gaols or Houses of Correction … And every such Gaol or House of Correction shall for those purposes be deemed to be a House of Correction within the intent and meaning of every such Act of Parliament. [16]

 

The 1835 Act solved several logistical problems associated with transferring female convicts to Female Factories at Launceston or Hobart, including the hiring of horses and carts[17] and the behaviour of the guards employed to escort the prisoners, who were often accused of taking liberties along the way. (Mary Haigh)  The convenience of female convicts serving a short sentence in a local gaol meant they could be easily returned to their places of assignment, if still wanted. (Appendix 1 lists examples of sentences at the various gaols around VDL).

 

 

For the women too old or infirm to work and no place to live, being imprisoned provided shelter, food and a bed at the government’s expense:

 

Catherine Lowry (per Rajah) was convicted 74 times and between 1860-1897 served at least 32 terms of imprisonment.   She died in 1898 aged 78, at the Benevolent Asylum, Launceston. 

 

Ellen Holden, also from the Rajah, had a record showing 61 offences – besides many returns to the Female Factories of Van Diemen’s Land, Ellen’s later years were spent in Victoria, where she was imprisoned at least 44 times. Ellen died at the Melbourne Hospital in 1893 aged 70.

 

Margaret Behan (per Australasia 1849) was imprisoned 27 times between 1851 and 1890 for her 40 offences, including a stint at the remote Dover Gaol.

 

 

 

The Independent newspaper, Saturday 4 February 1832 gives an insight into the conditions of solitary confinement for female prisoners in the recently completed Norfolk Plains gaol:

The magistrates then proceeded to visit the gaol lately built on the township. A general dissatisfaction was expressed at the total unfitness of the building for the purposes for which it was proposed, it consisting of only four cells, intended for the solitary confinement of offenders, with an intervening room, in which fourteen prisoners, with the gaoler, were accommodated, although the apartment was not by any means large enough for half that number of persons. The cells were inhabited by females, but which, being only separated from the room appropriated to the male prisoners by the doors are quite useless for all the purposes of solitary punishment-"—in fact, a constant communication must take place between the male and female prisoners; The only mode by which these cells are ventilated is, by an augur hole in the [ceiling] of about an inch in diameter ; and the want of air and sense of suffocation was such, that one of the magistrates (according' to our informant) compared these hells to the black hole of Calcutta!.

 

 

 

Richmond Gaol (and Court House) was built over a period of 15 years between 1825 and 1840. In 1835, women’s quarters were built to better segregate male and female prisoners.[18] The female wing contained a new cookhouse and bake oven. Solitary confinement cells were also added;  eight in the men’s wing and four incorporated within the women’s wing. The cells measured 2.1m deep and 1.5m wide, were lined with timber plank and fitted with solid timber doors; the overall effect was box-like. They were also cold, damp and in total darkness, resulting in extreme physical and psychological discomfort for the inhabitants. (Read more at Richmond Gaol website)

 

Elizabeth McConchie per Frances Charlotte arrived in VDL on 10th January 1833. Five years later, she died at the Richmond Gaol while still under sentence.  She was just 21 years old.  She was serving a sentence of 25 days solitary confinement at the Richmond Gaol for being absent without leave and gross disorderly conduct. This was her twelfth offence in the colony. She also served a sentence of solitary confinement at the Oatlands Gaol.

 

 

Post 1850

After the end of transportation in 1853, the punishment of ‘transportation’ was replaced with a sentence of Penal Servitude, which usually dictated a period of imprisonment followed by a period of probation. The remaining Female Factories were closed down over the next two years and converted to gaols, with responsibility transferred to the local authorities (Sheriff’s Department).   The Sheriff’s Department also took over gaol record-keeping, although the records of re-tried convict women were still maintained by the Convict Department for several more decades. In practise, both types of records were often maintained by the same officer using the same format of record keeping. [19]

 

The Campbell Street Gaol (Hobart Gaol), which began life as convict barracks, was converted in 1846 to serve as a civilian prison. It became Hobart's main gaol in 1853 and the only gaol in the south from 1877 after the Cascades Gaol closed.

 

 

A narrative of a walk-through of the Cascades House of Correction and Gaol, published in The Mercury 1872, published in The Mercury 1872, describes the building and the routine of female prisoners imprisoned under Penal Servitude.

 

 

 

See also Females Strip-searched by Female Searchers by Terry Newman (Dec 2020)

When convicts of both genders arrived in Tasmania they were effectively strip-searched to record their physical description.  This initial frisking would take place onboard ship upon its arrival in Hobart, and similar searches might reoccur at a gaol, house of correction, or police watchhouse.  There were many reasons given for a strip-search, especially when apprehended prisoners recaptured after absconding were searched for stolen items and to remove objects they might use to harm themselves or others. Terry Newman's paper explores many questionable practices imposed on female convicts, and highlights contemporary concerns expressed in the Tasmanian press that relate to the type of watchhouse keeper employed, and presents some personal background on some of these male ‘keepers’.

 

 

Appendix 1: Examples of female convicts imprisoned in VDL gaols

Mary Howard (Guilder) (per Nautilus) was sentenced to 3 months hard labour at the Longford Gaol in both 1873 and 1875 for being idle and disorderly.

Mary Ann Smith (per Nautilus) : for wilful mismanagement of work was sentenced to 14 days cells on bread and water at Richmond Gaol in 1839. Again in 1839, for disobedience of orders, she served 10 days in a cell at Richmond Gaol before being returned to her service.

Christian Weir (per Nautilus) had two stints in the Launceston Gaol in 1846 and 1850. For the latter, charged with stealing a blanket, she was ‘to be Imprisoned and kept to hard Labor 12 Calendar months and to be kept in solitary confinement in the first and last months.’

Emma Bolton (per New Grove), for ‘Wilful prevarication on oath this day in her evidence in the Case Rex vs. Fletcher, 12 Months in the Crime Class in the Penitentiary [Campbell Street Gaol] Hobart.’

Maria Daly (per New Grove), had four stints in solitary confinement at Oatlands Gaol in 1836.

Ann Jubb (per New Grove) was charged with insolence & disobedience of orders, and sentenced to 4 months in the solitary working cells at Hobart Penitentiary in 1836.

Sarah Lawrence (per New Grove) was charged with drunkenness & neglect of duty in 1837 and sentenced to 8 days’ solitary confinement at the Campbell Town Gaol.

Jane Skinner (per New Grove) was tried in the Supreme Court for burglary in 1849 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour at Launceston Gaol. The 8th and 24th months of this sentence were to be passed in solitary confinement.

Maria Benjamin (per Persian) was gaoled at the George Town House of Correction for 14 days for absenting herself from her master’s service from the 27th February to the 2nd March 1829.

Norah Cobbett (per Persian) was imprisoned in 1835 for drunkenness and ‘turbulent conduct’ at Oatlands, and had her Ticket of Leave suspended for three calendar months.

Susannah Riley (per Persian), for disobedience of orders and repeated insolence in 1828, spent 8 days on bread and water in the Bothwell Gaol, followed by 4 additional days of solitary confinement on bread and water.

Ann Clancey (per Providence) spent a fortnight in solitary confinement at New Norfolk Gaol and 6 Months in Crime Class at the Female Factory for insolence and refusal to work.

Margaret Little (per Kinnear) was imprisoned at both Oatlands and Bothwell.

Mary Ann Miller (per Kinnear) was gaoled at Oatlands for infanticide.

Five women were gaoled at Waterloo Point Gaol (Great Swanport), the site of the 88th military regiment,  including Mary Jones (Arab) who was detained for 7 days solitary confinement in the gaol's cells in 1837.

 

 

 

[1] Mary Haigh, March 23rd 1842, Inquiry into Female Convict Prison Discipline 1841-42, page 323,

[2] https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/house-of-correction

[3] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, Saturday 17 August 1816 - Page 1

[4] HRA Series III, Vol.II,  pp.568, xviii

[5] HRA Series 3 Vol.II, page xviii-xix 

[6]HRA Series III Vol.III, p. 286, 13 March 1820  Examination of A. W. H. Humphrey. Taken Before John Thomas Bigge,! The Commissioner Of Inquiry

[7] HRA Ser.3 Vol.II, P.290

[8] HRA Series III Vol.IV p.146 June 1824

[9] HRA Series III vol. IV.,9 June 1824, p. 146, Report by Arthur to Bathurst on public buildings

[10] Tardiff, P., Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls: Convict Women in Van Diemen’s Land 1803-1829. P.28

[11] HRA Series III, vol. IV., 3 July 1825, p. 287 Arthur to Bathurst

[12] HRA Series III Vol. IV. p. 287, July 1825

[13] HRA Series III Vol. II., 23rd June 1817 p.252

[14] August 20, 1835, The Hobart Town Gazette

[15]http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_act/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750.pdf

[16] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_act/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750.pdf, p.667 clause LXIX

[17] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter Saturday 11 November 1820 - Page 1

[18] https://richmondgaol.com.au/

[19] Eldershaw, P.R., 1965 (revised 2003), Archives Office Of Tasmania Guide To The Public Records Of Tasmania, Section Three, Convict Department,

 

 

 

 

By E. Crawford (9/10/2021)

 

 

Female convicts sentenced to Solitary Confinement were imprisoned and isolated in small, single cells where outside contact, comfort, exercise, diet and even light were closely controlled. In its harshest form this punishment was one of sensory deprivation in dark, cramped and sometimes suffocating cells.

 

Solitary confinement was a secondary punishment that enhanced the privations of a punishment such as imprisonment. Sentences of solitary confinement were handed down by visiting magistrates or, in cases where women were already detained in female factories, by resident Superintendents. The women could be confined in any gaol cell, purpose-built solitary cell or secure, isolated building.

 

Historically there has been some confusion as to whether “Separate Treatment” and “Solitary Confinement” were the same entity. The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 -  explains that “Separate Treatment” and “Solitary Confinement” were interchangeable terms at the women’s prison, carried out in the Separate Apartments [1]  The confusion continues when The Colonial Times 9 October 1856 mentions a women who was placed in a light cell under separate treatment, which is convict-department language for solitary confinement’, while 2 days later the same newspaper describes ‘solitary confinement, which is Convict Department language for something worse than separate treatment’.[2]  Perhaps the best understanding of the difference comes from The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 when, in printing the New Probation Regulations for men, explains: ‘The Third Class will be subjected to the separate system of confinement; but care must be taken not to confound it with solitary confinement in cells’.[3]  The confusion may have arisen because cells were inconsistently named as ‘solitary apartments’, ‘separate apartments’, ‘solitary working cells’ or ‘separate working cells’. Separate Treatment was a psychological process based on reflection and reformation, carried out in individual cells over an extended period of time (usually several months). Solitary confinement, in comparison, was a stricter short-term punishment perceived as the ultimate form of sensory deprivation and isolation punishment. In many instances solitary confinement sentences were paired with a strictly supervised bread and water diet or with hard labour.  

 

It is difficult to establish how widespread the use of the solitary confinement punishment was for women in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL);  its interpretation often varied depending on the magistrate, reporting procedures, or the overseer in charge of supervising the punishment. Under the 1826 Act for the Summary Punishment of Disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders the maximum number of days a prisoner could spend in solitary confinement at one stretch was fourteen, however records have been found where this regulation was exceeded. There are also some reports that the sentence was used to excess in contravention of rules and regulations.[4]  In August 1835, a Consolidation Act determined that any offender could be kept to hard labour in the day time and under solitary confinement at night only on the authority of the Lieutenant Governor.

[5] Several women at the Female House of Correction were punished with ‘Hard labour in the Separate working Cells’, also known as solitary working cells.

Whether the punishment was solitary confinement, solitary confinement on bread and water, or hard labour in the separate working cells, the purpose and outcome remained the same for the convict women; punitive and harsh, short-term imprisonment.  It could be carried out in any confined gaol cell, purpose-built solitary cells, or locked in a remote hut, as described in a report from 1820 which mentions female Prisoners at George Town being ‘put into solitary confinement in a hut near the Barracks’.[6] [†] 

 

 

In July 1836, at the Hobart Quarter Sessions, Elizabeth Tod (Lady of the Lake 1829) was  [re] transported for 14 years with the first 6 months to be spent in solitary confinement. Her crime was feloniously stealing 1 Promissory Note of the Derwent Bank, value £20, and other monies of the value of £230, property of Ann Bridger. (Source: CON40). 

 

 

Jane Wheeler (per Catherine and Kangaroo) was the first recorded female convict to receive a sentence of solitary confinement in VDL. For leaving Hobart Town without a pass in 1814, she was sentenced to be kept in solitary confinement for 14 days on bread and water. The sentence was carried out in the Hobart Town Gaol which, at that time, was the only location available for solitary confinement – the Cascades Female Factory was not opened until 1828. 

 

Types of Solitary Confinement Cells:

Depending on the severity of the charges, the behaviour of the convict and their geographical location, solitary confinement sentences were served in either ‘light’ or ‘dark’ cells.

 

The light cells, or solitary working cells, allowed light in above the door so that prisoners could undertake some form of task work whilst in confinement, such as needlework, or picking wool or oakum (horse-hair and coir rope).[7] The dark solitary cells would admit no light at all and incarceration in these cells would normally include the additional punishment of a bread and water diet.[8] 

 

Although a solitary confinement sentence was regularly handed down by VDL magistrates, they did not specify what type of cell was to be employed.  This was left to the discretion of the relevant female factory superintendents or gaol administrators. In comparison in NSW in 1835, confinement for female convicts in a dark cell for refusing to work was an accepted practice[9] with Parramatta having purpose-built cells specifically to accommodate this punishment.[10]   By 1839 the dark cells, at least in NSW, garnered a lot of media attention; an enquiry by the NSW Secretary of State determined that in general convicts did not consider it as any additional severity to be placed in dark cells; some of them said they could sleep better, and enjoy more rest, than they could in the light ones, and that they were also much warmer on account of their smaller size; he found that it was almost a general rule with them to prefer the larger light cells in summer, and the small dark ones in winter; there was, therefore, no great difference in the punishment.[11]  In 1839, the government of NSW took a significanly different approach to VDL when it introduced An Act[12]  that included the replacement of the punishment of Transportation with imprisonment, labour, and solitary confinement for specified periods, at the discretion of the Justices, in dark cells.  The Act only lasted two years before it was repealed in 1841- to abolish references to ‘dark’ cells.[13] 

 

The dark cells at Cascades were described in detail after they were inspected by the jury at the coroner’s inquest in March 1838, of Barbara Henning (per Atwick January 1838),[14]  (see extract below). After the coroner’s inquest the severe punishment of solitary confinement in a dark cell, on a bread and water diet, had become publicly pugnacious and unacceptable. The resulting media attention was possibly the catalyst for the Governor of VDL, abandoning the dark cells at Cascades Female Factory the following month.  Separate Treatment would eventually provide an alternate, yet also controversial, punishment. Its benefits were explained in the Launceston Examiner in 1845 by Mr F.M. Innes, a regular newspaper contributor,  anti-transportationist and eventual politician[15]. [Refer to Punishments: Separate Treatment]

 

Solitary Confinement at the Cascades Female Factory

The superintendent at the Cascades Female Factory was empowered under the 1826 Act for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders, to control misbehaviour and disorderly conduct with moderate punishment, which could include ‘solitary confinement on bread and water, in any place appointed for safe custody, for any term not exceeding Fourteen days’. This ability was further enforced in the 1829 Rules and Regulations,[‡] with the duration of the punishment reviewed again in 1839.

 

The 12 solitary cells installed at the Cascades Female Factory were located in Yard 3 (Crime class) and were criticised as being ’… so constructed, that the inmates can converse not only the one with the other but also with the prisoners in the respective yards’.[16] To deter this, a range of punishments were introduced for convicts in solitary confinement who attempted to communicate with others: these included admonishments, 2-3 days on bread and water or up to 3 days’ extension to their solitary confinement sentence.[17] Besides imposing extensions to the allowable time in solitary confinement the Superintendent could also apply a fresh sentence.

 

In 1851, the Factory Overseer punished Jane Whitton to 14 days in separate treatment for talking while under punishment in solitary confinement.[18] 

 

 

The type of cell ('dark or other cell') in which a solitary confinement sentence was served appears to have been left to the discretion of the Superintendent, as outlined in the 1829 Rules and Regulations:

Females guilty of disobedience of orders, neglect of work, profane, obscene, or abusive language, insubordination, or other turbulent or disorderly, or disrespectful conduct, shall be punished by the Superintendent with close confinement in a dark or other cell, until her case shall be brought under the consideration of the Principal Superintendent.

 

In addition to the light and dark solitary cells, the Cascades Female Factory also had an extreme version of a dark cell, referred to as the ‘black-hole’, a term usually referring to a suffocating, dark prison cell, underground dungeon, or the coal hole on a transport ship.  Little is known about the ‘black hole’ at the Cascades Female Factory and only fragments of references to it remain. The only occasion that the black-hole was referred to in the Punishment Book of 1851-1855, kept by the Superintendent at the Cascades Female Factory, was for Margaret Haines (per St. Vincent) who was detained for 48 hours in the ‘black hole’ for disorderly conduct in 1852.[19] While the existence of the black-hole cell was scarcely mentioned to the outside world, it was discussed in the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Discipline, and again in The Tasmanian Tribune 1874.[§] 

…and went into a diabolical contrivance in the shape of a triple-door cell, which was used "in the infinite azure" for the purpose of making maniacs of refractory females. Without inquiry, we were solemnly assured by Miss Galt (the matron) and Miss Proctor, who has the control of the quarter in which the black-hole is situated, that it had not been used for years. [20]

 

Conditions in the dark cells at Cascades were publicised after the cells were inspected by the jury of the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Barbara Henning (per Atwick) in March 1838.[23]  The jury condemned the conditions suffered by the women in the dark cells and also the inadequate amount of food provided on a bread and water diet. The resulting media attention was possibly the catalyst for the Governor of VDL, Sir John Franklin, abandoning the dark cells at Cascades Female Factory the following month:

 

Coroner's Inquest. INSPECTION OF THE FEMALE FACTORY.

Colonial Times, Tuesday 3 April 1838 - Page 6

Extract. 

The dark or solitary cells, next to the nursery, excited the greatest reprobation. They are, indeed, most frightful dungeons, such as we read of as appertaining only to the Spanish Inquisition. At the end of a narrow yard, you enter a passage, about four feet wide, and into this passage the cells open. When the outer door is closed, the passage is quite dark, as of course are the cells, into which no breath of pure air can by possibility find entrance. On the door of the first cell being opened, the stench was so great, as to make the gentlemen immediately near it, retreat into the open air ; in this, reclining on what was intended for a bed, at the further end, was a woman, one Margaret Fulford, who had been confined for five days and nights, for refusing to wash more than she was able. She complained of being ill and weak, but when Dr. Learmonth had seen her, he reported that there was not much the matter with her. In these cells (in which persons cannot well stand upright) the food is 1 lb of bread daily, with water, ad libitum ; each cell contains two tubs,-one, for nameless purposes, and the other for water ; and on asking how the in mates could distinguish the one from the other, we were informed, they must feel for them ! The only air that is ever admitted into these horrid receptacles, is once in twenty-four hours, when the cell is opened to be cleaned out ; the pound of bread is then given, the water tub replenished, and the door closed till the same hour the next day. It is frightful to contemplate the cruelty of which these cells are the instrument,-especially, when it is considered, that the fist of a single magistrate, can consign a female prisoner to them. We learnt, that the country magistrates, are far more severe in ordering the cell-punishment, than those in town ; because-(as it was presumed) they have never seen them, and are, therefore, ignorant of their horrid character. We were informed, also, that Colonel Arthur had inspected the cells, but that Sir John Franklin has only proceeded as far as the outer door of the passage, not venturing to explore the dark recesses of the interior…. Verdict-" We find that the deceased, Barbara Henning, died of diarrhoea and fever, produced by being confined in a crowded unwholesome place, without necessary air and exercise."

...

ADDRESS.

" The Jury further submit to His Excellency, that having been permitted to inspect the prison, (although the Coroner objected to their going into any evidence not immediately connected with the death of Barbara Hemming), they have respectfully to represent to His Excellency, the extraordinary offensive condition of the Dark Cells, in which the Jury found women closely confined upon bread and water, for periods of from seven days to one month.

"The Jury further submit to His Excellency, that the amount of food supplied to the women is extremely limited : in one of the working wards, the women receiving no food whatever from 12 o'clock in the day to 8 o'clock of the morning of the next day.

His Excellency [Sir John Franklin ] has, we believe, determined upon suffering it no longer to disgrace the British name and character by being the death inducing abode —of imprisoning within its damp and gloomy walls—cheerless by the blessed light and influence of the sun, the wretched women and children now entombed therein.

It is highly to the credit of Mr. Spode that he lost no time in redeeming his pledge to the jury to submit to His Excellency the necessity of at once abandoning those dreadful tombs, the dark cells, the horrors of which we but inadequately described in our last, in which WOMEN were all but buried alive- We have sincere pleasure in announcing that His Excellency instantly acceded to it.

 

 

 

Examples of the trifling nature of some of the ‘offences’ occasioning punishment in solitary confinement at Cascades include:

- In 1853, thirteen days’ Solitary Confinement was handed out by the Overseer of Weavers to Ann Girvan (per Sir Robert Steppings) for breaking a comb issued for her use.[21]

- Mary Savage (per Earl Grey 1850), was found to have a blanket in her possession while undergoing 3 days of solitary confinement in 1852 (for the offence of not answering the night watchman).  She was further punished with 24 hours on bread and water.[22] 

- In May 1853, as winter approached, Martha Thomas (per Aurora 1851) was put in solitary confinement for 48 hours for wearing 2 pairs of stockings.

 

 

Solitary confinement in other locations

Many unruly female convicts would have had their first experience of solitary confinement in the British gaols or on the convict transport ships en route to Van Diemen’s Land. The early ships originally used the coal-hole, or ‘black-hole’, to isolate troublesome convicts, not having anywhere else on board suitable for the task. By 1830, Surgeons’ journals mention a solitary confinement box being fitted on the ships. It was an upright wooden box, painted black, approximately 2 metres high, 0.5 metres wide and 0.75 metres deep.  Across the top of the door and around each side were three round air holes.  The surgeon superintendents on board the convict transport ships were very aware of the threats to a convict’s physical and mental health brought about by extended confinement in these boxes on a prolonged diet of bread and water. Research into lengths of incarceration indicate the same considerations do not appear to be present once they arrived in the colony.

 

Solitary confinement boxes were not just located on convict transport ships: in 1855, Frederick D’Arcy Watson, medical dispenser at Brickfields and the Cascades Female Factory, gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Convict Department acknowledging the use of solitary confinement boxes, or ‘sentry boxes’ as he referred to them. Although unclear from his report, Watson could have been referring to either Brickfields Hiring Depot or the Cascades Female Factory.[24]  His description of the boxes matches that of the convict transport ships’ solitary confinement boxes as recorded by the ships’ surgeon superintendents. (Refer to Ship's Punishments)

 

 

On 17 December 1855, a sitting of the Select Committee on the Convict Department, heard a statement from Frederick D’Arcy Watson:

I have seen the boxes in which the factory women are placed; they are something like sentry boxes.  They are so confined and narrow that it is impossible either to sit down or kneel in them.  I have known women to be frequently put into these boxes, and on one occasion I was called in to see a woman who had attempted to hang herself in one.  There are three holes in the front and on each side of the boxes to admit air.  The holes are an inch in diameter. This woman tried to make use of her apron as a rope, by passing it through the holes, and tying it round her neck.  When mothers were confined in these boxes, their children were taken to them to suckle.  I have heard of a woman being confined in a box till the pains of labour came on her, and also that she was confined before she could be taken to the hospital.  A woman named Catherine Toomey was on one occasion confined to my knowledge for seven or eight days in one of these boxes. [25]

 

Kim Shaw, A Troublesome Geography in Convict Lives: Female Convicts at the New Norfolk Asylum, Dianne Snowden and Jane Harrington (eds) p. 138.

 

 

SCB open SCB closed

 

Source: Collection: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

S1994.367.1 Solitary confinement box , c1830  Wood and iron; wood and metal

 

The solitary confinement gaol cells in inland gaols (for example: Longford, Campbell Town, Oatlands, Richmond, New Norfolk) were used for the convenience of shorter sentences handed down by visiting Magistrates, or as a holding cell until a transfer could be arranged. The Independent newspaper, on the 4th February 1832, gives an insight into the conditions of solitary confinement for female prisoners in the recently completed Norfolk Plains gaol:

 

The magistrates then proceeded to visit the gaol lately built on the township. A general dissatisfaction was expressed at the total unfitness of the building for the purposes for which it was proposed, it consisting of only four cells, intended for the solitary confinement of offenders, with an intervening room, in which fourteen prisoners, with the gaoler, were accommodated, although the apartment was not by any means large enough for half that number of persons. The cells were inhabited by females, but which, being only separated from the room appropriated to the male prisoners by the doors are quite useless for all the purposes of solitary punishment-"—in fact, a constant communication must take place between the male and female prisoners; The only mode by which these cells are ventilated is, by an augur hole in the [ceiling] of about an inch in diameter ; and the want of air and sense of suffocation was such, that one of the magistrates (according' to our informant) compared these hells to the black hole of Calcutta!

 

Examples of the only remaining solitary confinement gaol cells used for female prisoners in VDL can be viewed at the Richmond Gaol.  The gaol has a total of 12 solitary cells in their original state, eight in the men’s wing and four that were incorporated within the women’s wing when the gaol was expanded in 1835. The cells measured 2.1m deep and 1.5m wide, were lined with timber plank and fitted with solid timber doors; the overall effect was box-like. They were also cold, damp and in total darkness, resulting in extreme physical and psychological discomfort for the inhabitants. 

 

 

Elizabeth McConchie

Frances Charlotte 1833

Fifteen-year old Elizabeth was tried in the Dumfries Court of Justiciary, Scotland, on the 10th April 1832.  She confessed to aggravated theft at her trial, was found guilty and transported to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years.

Elizabeth did not have a happy time in the colony.  She had eight masters in five years, and was charged and sentenced on multiple occasions; in total Elizabeth was sentenced to solitary confinement 7 times and the solitary working cells at hard labour for one month.

After just five years in the colony, Elizabeth died at the Richmond Gaol on 17th January 1838.  She would have been 21 years of age.  Elizabeth, at the time of her death was serving her seventh sentence of solitary confinement - 25 days in the Richmond Gaol’s solitary confinement cells for being absent without leave from her master, and gross disorderly conduct.  An Inquest (No. 171) was carried out and the panel of witnesses came to the conclusion that Elizabeth had died ‘by the visitation of God in Her Majesty’s Gaol at Richmond on the 17th day of January 1838’.

 

 

 

 

Mary Ann Furze, (per Princess Charlotte, 1820):  was sentenced to solitary confinement in the most remote place in Van Diemen’s Land – Sarah Island.

 

In 1821, for absconding into the woods and being absent from the service of her master Joseph Wright without a pass during several months, Mary Ann was ‘transported to such part of the Territory as His Honour the Lieutenant Governor may deem proper for the remainder of her sentence’. Mary Ann ended up at Macquarie Harbour, where she was punished for 3 more offences and sentenced to solitary confinement.  While the first sentence of solitary confinement does not mention the location, the next two sentences mention Sarah Island, where the gaol was described as "a miserable, small place, containing one room and three small cells." [26]

·      In May 1824, for disobeying orders at Macquarie Harbour, Mary Ann was punished by Solitary Confinement for 3 days and was to be fed on bread and water only.

·      On 31st Aug 1824, Mary Ann was sentenced to three days of solitary confinement on Sarah Island for neglect of duties.

·      On 9th September 1824 while still on Sarah Island, Mary Ann was punished with a further three days of solitary confinement on bread and water only. Her crime was neglect of duty and using threatening language to the Dispenser of Medicine and destroying the fresh water kept for Hospital use.  (Female convicts were housed on Grunnet Island, while the hospital where they were employed was stationed on Sarah Island: ‘The small island, [Grunnet Island] like the settlement [Sarah Island] has no water, which, as well as wood, was carried over [every] day’. Launceston Advertiser, Thursday 31 August 1843 - Page 4)

 

 

 

 

[†] HISTORICAL RECORDS OF AUSTRALIA, 1820. 21 April. Examination of J. Lenahan. Punishment of Spirits available Q. Is the evidence taken in writing? A. It is and on oath and a record is made of the evidence, sentence and Punishment. Q. What Punishment is awarded to female Prisoners at George Town? A. They are put into solitary confinement in a hut near the Barracks and, for very incorrigible women, an Iron collar is used as a badge of female convicts, HRA III Vol.3 p.410

[‡] In the Female Factory Rules and Regulations published in 1829, the Superintendent at the Cascades Female Factory was 'empowered to confine any Female in a solitary cell, for disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, or other improper conduct, for a period not exceeding 24 hours, but, he is to enter the full particulars of each case in his Journal, and to report the same to the Principal Superintendent, on his visiting the Establishment'. (Rules and Regulations 1829).

[§] Q. 120. What of the dark cells? It depends very much upon the time women have been in them: the old hands care very little about them. P.39

 

 

[1] IN THE BAD OLD DAYS OF A CENTURY AGO Story of the House of Correction GRIM HISTORY OF AN ANCIENT RUINT reatment of Women under “The System” The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 - Page 7

[2] Colonial Times, 9 October 1856 - Page 2

[3] The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 - Page 1

[4] Kim Shaw, ‘A Troublesome Geography’ in Dianne Snowden and Jane Harrington (eds.), Convict Lives. Female Convicts at the New Norfolk Asylum, p.38

[5]http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/num_act/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750/aatcaacotlrttcogqsattmepacotaoo6win21750.pdf, Clause LXXXIV, p.670

[6] HRA III Vol.3 p.410

[7] AOT CSO 22/1/50 p101.

[8] Ibid p.110, p.127.

[9] The Sydney Herald, Monday 27 1835 - Page 2

[10] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Thursday 17 June 1841 - Page 2

[11] Government Gazette Proclamations And Legislation - New South Wales Government Gazette, Friday 11 June 1841 - Page 795

[12] No. 22. An Act to abolish the Transportation of Female "Convicts, and to provide for the more effectual "Punishment of Female Offenders within the "Colony of New South Wales. Government Gazette Proclamations And Legislation - New South Wales Government Gazette, Saturday 7 December 1839 - Page 1391

[13] No. 3, An Act to repeal so much of an Act, intituled, "An Act to abolish the Transportation of "Female Convicts, and to provide for the more "effectual punishment of Female Offenders, "within the Colony of New South Wales," as authorises the confinement of any Female Offender in a Dark Cell.

Government Gazette Proclamations And Legislation - New South Wales Government Gazette, Saturday 10 July 1841 - Page 933

[14] Coroner's Inquest. INSPECTION OF THE FEMALE FACTORY. Colonial Times, Tuesday 3 April 1838 - Page 6

[15] https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/innes-frederick-maitland-3835

[16] A. Gardiner ASC: REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY INTO FEMALE CONVICT PRISON DISCIPLINE Correspondence, Legal Branch CSO 22/1/50 AOT 1841, P. 388

[17] CON138/2/1

[18] CON138/1/1

[19] Con13 p.75 No.6

[20] OUR PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. No. V. THE FEMALE HOUSE OF CORRECTION.  The Tasmanian Tribune, Friday 11 December 1874 p 3.

[21] CON138/2/1    

[22] CON138/1/1

[23] Coroner's Inquest. INSPECTION OF THE FEMALE FACTORY. Colonial Times, Tuesday 3 April 1838 - Page 6

[24] The Courier, Tuesday 18 December 1855 - Page 2

[25] Kim Shaw, ‘A Troublesome Geography’ in Dianne Snowden and Jane Harrington (eds.), Convict Lives. Female Convicts at the New Norfolk Asylum, p.38

[26] Advocate, Friday 21 June 1929 - Page 8

 

By E. Crawford (23/09/2021)

 

Separate Treatment, also known as the ‘silent system’, was a means of segregating and isolating recalcitrant women by controlling their exposure to exercise and outside communication. It was a psychological form of punishment designed to promote reflection on behaviour and reformation through religious and moral influences.[1]  Silence was an integral part of the separate treatment; in its extreme forms, as practiced in Pentonville Prison and Port Arthur, it was ultimately viewed as a failed experiment due to the high numbers of mental breakdowns resulting from the punishment.[2] 

 

Historically there has been some confusion between the punishments of ‘Solitary Confinement’ and ‘Separate Treatment’, which may have arisen because cells were inconsistently labelled as ‘solitary apartments’, ‘separate apartments’, ‘solitary working cells’ or ‘separate working cells’. The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 -  explains that “Separate Treatment” and “Solitary Confinement” were interchangeable terms at the women’s prison, carried out in the Separate Apartments [3]  The confusion continues when The Colonial Times 9 October 1856 mentions a women who ‘was placed in a light cell under separate treatment, which is convict-department language for solitary confinement’, while 2 days later the same newspaper describes solitary confinement, which is Convict Department language for something worse than separate treatment’.[4]  The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 when, in printing the New Probation Regulations for men, clears up the confusion: ‘The Third Class will be subjected to the separate system of confinement; but care must be taken not to confound it with solitary confinement in cells’.[5]   Separate Treatment was a psychological process based on reflection and reformation, involving isolated cells over an extended period of time (usually several months). Solitary confinement, in comparison, was the ultimate in short-term deprivation and isolation punishments.

 

The punishment of Separate Treatment for female convicts was first introduced in Van Diemen's Land (VDL) during the Probation period around 1845. It was implemented as an alternative to corporal punishments, including the stocks and hair cutting, which had fallen out of favour.  It was also a much more publicly acceptable punishment than solitary confinement in a dark cell on a bread and water diet; the horrors of this punishment had been exposed by the 1838 Coronial Inquest into the death of Barbara Hemmings (per Atwick).

 

Introducing Separate treatment as a punishment was first suggested at the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Discipline as a means of segregating the better-disciplined women under magisterial summons from the incorrigible Crime Class women for as long as possible. Josiah Spode, Principal Superintendent:

 … Females who are sent under punishment should have to serve a regulated portion of such sentences in those separate cells before they are allowed to intermix with the other women in the probation yards, for the coercion in the Crime Class Yard is now rendered inefficacious by the great numbers that unavoidably are congregated together.[6]

 

Separate Treatment was already operating in Britain in some format prior to its introduction in VDL, as Mary Haigh per Arab 1836, at the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Discipline, mentions being held in the Wakefield Gaol and kept under the silent system.[7] The system gained prominence in 1842 when Pentonville prison built a ‘separate system’ for isolating prisoners incorporating the omniscientpanopticon’ design - a design based on separation and discreet observation by the gaolers.[8] (By 1848-49 the Port Arthur silent model prison was completed along the same panopticon design and using the same silent treatment philosophy as Pentonville -  exploring the benefits of isolation and reform through a psychological approach as opposed to harsh physical punishments. The Port Arthur silent model prison took the silent treatment punishments to psychological extremes not experienced by the female convicts.) The Pentonville Prison was built to replace the downgraded Millbank prison, built in 1816, as the National Penitentiary. Millbank was built on the banks of the River Thames and was convenient for holding convicts awaiting transportation and near the moorings for convict transport ships heading to the colonies.  The original design suggestion was in the panopticon style, however  the design was modified, and by incorporating six pentagon cell blocks it still contentiously allowed for the supposedly 'silent treatment' of inmates. James L Clarke M.D. Surgeon R.N. on the female convict transport ship Navarino in 1841, while waiting to sail, remarked in his journal on the “silent treatment” at Millbank prison, blaming it on the manical behaviour of some of the convicts under his charge:

On joining the Navarino a Female Convict Ship, I found the prisoners, in a very unsettled condition and one in a state of furious mania. I have not the slightest doubt, from the description given me by Mr Jeffrey Surgeon whom I superseded that the transition from the silent system pursued in the Penitentiary at Millbank to one where all control for that kind must necessarily cease, when so many abandoned Female are suddenly placed together in a Ship, was the sole cause of their riotous behaviour, I trust that the Government on a mature reflection of the case, will cease to pursue the silent system, with those prisoners who are destined for the Colonies.  It being found necessary to remove the Female with mania to the Penitentiary, it induced several of the Prisoners to pretend the same disease. For the first three weeks three of the prisoners simulated mania in the hope of being sent back to the Penitentiary and even after the Ship had sailed, they endeavoured to keep up the character and committed the most abominable and filthy acts, that it was found absolutely necessary to have recourse to corporal punishment.

 

The medical journal of  Surgeon J. Sloane of the convict ship Tory in 1845 also noted the impact of silent treatment at Millbank Prison:

the silent system adopted at Millbank Prison preyed severely on the younger classes, and their embarkation was hailed as a bright era in their lives, for where confinement is long persisted in, both the mind, and body yield to despondency, the beneficial impression produced by the change of scene gives them fresh impetus, they are cheered by the prospect of better days even in the land of their captivity, there appeared an almost universal expression of pleasure at the prospect before them.[9]

 

Separate Treatment was introduced at Cascades Female Factory in 1845 with the construction of 112 purpose-built separate apartments (also referred to as separate treatment cells or separate working cells) in Yard 3 (Crime Class). They were built in two rows of two tiers; limited space may have dictated the linear design rather than the panopticon design used for separate treatment in British prisons such as Millbank and Pentonville, and later adopted at Port Arthur.

 

 

Comptroller-General's Office,

21st July, 1845,

Sir,-In obedience to my instructions have the honor to transmit, for the information of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State, my periodical report upon the state of the Convict Department in this colony, accompanied by the following returns:  (5)

The Cascade Factory is in good order, the women in full work, and their labour made productive to the wants of the convict service. When the newly erected building, containing 112 separate working apartments, is occupied, more work will be done, more instruction given, and prison discipline much improved. I expect 56 of these apartments to be inhabited in about a fortnight.

(signed) M. Forster, C.G.

His Excellency Sir Eardley Wilmot, Bart.

 

OFFICIAL PAPERS ILLUSTRATING SOME PROPOSED CHANGES IN PENAL DISCIPLINE. Printed by order of the House of Commons, February 9, 1846. ENCLOSURE 1, IN NO. 10. Comptroller-General's Office...

Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 29 July 1846 p 7

 

 

In 1846 separate treatment cells were also incorporated into the existing Panopticon-designed Launceston Female Factory. The Launceston Examiner of 15 August 1846 reported:

The Factory.—Twenty-four cells have just been completed at the female factory, where it is intended to make an experiment of the separate system.

The separate accommodation at the Launceston Female Factory ‘combined with omniscient surveillance was expected to transform the chaotic and squalid conditions of eighteenth-century gaols into places of order, productivity and reform’.[10]  However, over-crowding and lack of supervision ultimately contributed to the failure of this ambition. [11]

 

Regulations, issued July 1, 1845 by M. Forster, Comptroller-General, included instructions to the visiting magistrates to use separate or solitary confinement as a last resort:

Advice, admonition, and kindness, will in most cases be found effectual; but if these fail, and it should be found necessary to resort to punishment, extension of the allotted period of probation—or separate or solitary confinement—will, it is hoped, in most cases, be found sufficient. [12]

 

The benefits of the Separate System for convicts were, perhaps simplistically, explained in the Launceston Examiner in 1845 by Mr F.M. Innes, a regular newspaper contributor,  anti-transportationist and eventual politician: [13]

 

PRISON DISCIPLINE. SEPARATE SYSTEM.

Article - Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 7 May 1845 - Page 7  (Extract)

PRISON DISCIPLINE.

BY MR. F. M. INNES.

SEPARATE SYSTEM.

Separate imprisonment differs from what is ordinarily understood by solitary imprisonment-in the following particulars :—' In providing the prisoner with a large, well ventilated, and lighted apartment, instead of immuring him in a confined, ill-ventilated, and dark cell: in providing him with everything that is necessary to his cleanliness, health, and comfort during the day, and for his repose at night, instead of denying him those advantages; in supplying him with sufficient food of wholesome quality, instead of confining him to bread and water; in alleviating his mental discomfort by giving him employment; by the regular visits of the officers of the prison, of the governor, surgeon, turnkeys, or trades' instructors, and particularly of the chaplain, instead of consigning him to the torpor and other bad consequences of idleness, and the misery of unmitigated remorse; in separating him from none of the inmates of the prison except his fellow-prisoners, instead of cutting him off as far as may be from, the sight and solace of human society; in allowing him the privilege of attending both chapel and school for the purposes of public worship and education in class (securing on these occasions his complete separation from the sight and hearing of his fellows), instead of excluding him from divine service and instruction; in providing him with the means of taking exercise in the open air, whenever it is necessary and proper, instead of confining him to the unbroken seclusion of his cell.' (Inspector's report, 1838.) It is contended by the advocates of the separate system, that as a mode of punishment it prevents contaminating intercourse among criminals, without requiring for that purpose the addition of those punishments which are attached to breaches of regulation in prisons on the silent system; and that it obviates the necessity of that minute supervision by prison officers likewise characteristic of the silent system, and which, in its operation, is found to be humiliating and degrading without being effective: that it diminishes the probability of a prisoner being recognised after his restoration to society as having been the subject of penal infliction, and thereby favours his permanent reformation; that it presents the mind' of the prisoner in the most favourable circumstances for receiving new and right impressions; that it does not disturb these impressions in their progress to becoming settled habits; that labour being given as a mitigation, not an aggravation, of confinement, in a separate cell, it is ever afterwards associated in the mind with what is agreeable, instead of with what is degrading and repugnant, as in the case of those prisons where it is imposed as a punishment.

Read full transcript in Appendix 1 (below)

 

 

The views of Innes were published three years before Port Arthur opened its Separate Prison in 1848, which took the punishment of  Separate Treatment to an extreme level: ‘The prisoners had to study and attend chapel, and when outside their cell they had to wear a hood to hide their face…They would be put into an individual cell, they would have to undertake some form of cell-bound labour, and they would stay there for about 23 hours a day. They weren't allowed to communicate with anyone...They were no longer called by their name, only a number. It was a silent place — mats were laid in the corridor so even footsteps went unheard’.[14]

 

The extremes of the system, as practiced at Port Arthur, were not followed through with female convicts. Separate Treatment cells at the Cascades Female Factory had 2 sections, a completely dark inner room when the inner door was shut and locked, and a light outer room which allowed for task work, such as needlework, which was seen as a means to relieve mental anguish and a pathway to rehabilitation. The prisoners were kept apart and a strict regime of silence was supposed to be maintained in these apartments. This was not always achieved:  the Punishment Book maintained by the Superintendent of the Cascades Female Factory (1851-55) contains many incidents of women talking in the Separate Apartments.  The resulting punishments included admonishment, to up to 3 days in solitary confinement, 3 days on bread and water and a combination of 3 days solitary and 14 extra days separate treatment. The women could also be required to wear items of punishment dress, which consisted of a black cap and black short-sleeved jacket, and could also be deprived of any exercise for up to seven days.[15] (They were normally allowed to take half an hour exercise per day in the Crime Class yard where the apartments were situated).[16]

 

 

The separate apartments, which must not be confounded with the solitary cells, as Mr. Hall so disingenuously attempts to do, were in point of fact the most comfortable rooms in the prison : so much so that the better class of sentenced women occasionally solicited permission to occupy them in preference to the general rooms. The women under- going separate treatment usually occupied a double cell, the inner one or sleeping room being boarded and protected from draughts by a small door. The outer room was perfectly light The dimensions of each room, (I speak from personal knowledge) were 9 feet by 4, and 9 feet 6 inches in height, containing therefore 324 cubic feet in single cells were much larger, containing 585 cubic feet. The door of their apartments were kept open at intervals during the day, and the in-mates were allowed to take exercise in the enclosure. The detention of the mothers in these apartments was never of long duration, they were never placed there except with the consent of the medical officer, and while there received precisely the same food as the other nursing women, not half rations as so pertinaciously insisted on by the Editor of the "Daily News".

 

MR. HALL AND THE SELECT COMMITTTEE. TO THE EDITOR OF THE COLONIAL TIMES. Hobart Town

Colonial Times, Wednesday 26 September 1855 p 3

 

 

 

Inquest into the death of Ellen Parker aged 22 Years, per “Sea Queen”.
Held at the Cascades Female Factory on 13 Feb 1849 [17]

On the 7th February 1849, Ellen Parker was sentenced to a punishment of 9 months hard labour and every alternate month in separate apartment at the Cascades Female Factory .  She was immediately imprisoned in a cell in the Separate Apartment block where, six days later she died of Apoplexy. At the ensuing Inquest Mrs Hutchinson, the Matron, described: ‘Deceased was a woman of violent temper – and was inclined not to obey any orders that were given her’.  Ellen had previously spent several spells of hard labour and solitary confinement at the Female Factory and was known for her violent temper. The Inquest describes some of the daily routine of the Separate Apartments, such as the sewing Ellen was doing prior to her death.  The transcript of the Inquest is available here:

https://femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/convicts/EllenParkerInquest.pdf

 

 

 

Isabella McKenzie per Emma Eugenia 1846:

Isabella M'Kenzie, was charged with having played the truant for six days from Capt. Loughran's service, at O'Brien's Bridge. This lady was ordered one month in the factory for each day she thought proper to absent herself, one half of the six months to be in separate working cells.

Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania, Wednesday 3 May 1848 –

 

 

AN ACT for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders in the Service of the Government,1826-1830 specifies three months as the maximum time a convict could be confined with hard labour. However, this was sometimes exceeded with Separate Treatment: [‡]   numerous records, including those of Biddy Reilly, Mary Winkle (1845) and Catherine Hagan (1848) note periods of up to 4 months, and Mary McCann received 6 months for refusing to attend school at the Anson Probation Station. 

 

 

Catherine Henrys per Arab 1836:

Kate Henry, alias 'Jemmy the Rover,' was at length disposed of, when her Police character was handed to " his worship" who heaved a heavy sigh at the black catalogue of crime, which that precious record exhibited —she was sentenced 9 months' to the Factory, 5 months separate treatment, and " to be removed from Hobart Town, never more to return to annoy Mr. P."

POLICE REPORTS. TUESDAY—JANUARY 11TH.

Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania,  Saturday 15 January 1848 p 3

 

 

Other instances of female convicts sentenced to Separate Treatment at Cascades:

- Mary Hines (per Nautilus) : in 1841, for misconduct for trafficking in the Factory, was sentenced to six months hard labour in the House of Correction, the first two months in the Separate Working Cells then to be sent to Launceston for assignment.

- Janet McLean (per Nautilus):  in 1842, for being out after hours and using improper language, was sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the House of Correction, the first 3 months in the Separate working rooms.

- Alice Armstrong [per Sea Queen 1846] : was charged with being out after hours…the prisoner admitted that she had taken twelve or thirteen glasses of wine with a friend, and that she was not aware the time flew so rapidly. She was sentenced to be imprisoned five months at the factory, three of which she was to have separate apartments.

- Catherine Hagan (per Emma Eugenia) : was charged with absconding from her service on the 15th July, and remaining illegally at large until apprehended on the 10th August, by constable Hand, in a house in Collins-street. Sentenced 8 months to the factory, 4 of which she was to be accommodated with a separate apartment. (Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania, Wednesday 16 August 1848 p 3)

 

Rather than phase out Separate Treatment as a convict-era punishment, it was adapted within the colonial prison system as the ‘most merciful and beneficial system yet devised’.[18] [19] The benefits of Separate Treatment were discussed in the Daily Telegraph in 1897:

Sir F.M. Darley points out that the separate treatment of prisoners, if properly carried out, is the most merciful and beneficial system yet devised. It makes reformation possible, and it operates as a powerful deterrent to crime in the case of those confirmed criminals whose reformation is hopeless. It does away with that great blot upon all other prison systems which permits the association of prisoners with each other, which enables the more vile to corrupt the less vile, and favors the growth of a sort of esprit de corps in crime which is unspeakably detrimental to future good behaviour.[20]

 

 Separate Treatment lr

Separate Treatment Building c. 1868 source Libraries Tasmania

NS1013/1/1649 

 

 

 

[‡] ‘… and upon conviction to punish such female offender, either by solitary confinement on bread and water, in any place appointed for safe custody, for any term not exceeding Fourteen days, or by confinement and hard labour in such place for any term not exceeding Three calendar months, according to the nature and degree of the misbehaviour or disorderly conduct.’ AN ACT for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders in the Service of the Government,1826-1830.

 

 

 

[1] REGULATIONS OF THE PROBATIONARY ESTABLISHMENT FOR FEMALE CONVICTS IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND July 1, 1845.

[2] Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland  He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5944833/

[3] IN THE BAD OLD DAYS OF A CENTURY AGO Story of the House of Correction GRIM HISTORY OF AN ANCIENT RUIN Treatment of Women under “The System The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 - Page 7

[4] Colonial Times, 9 October 1856 - Page 2

[5] The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 - Page 1

[6] Report Of The Committee Of Inquiry Into Female Convict Prison Discipline 1841

[7] AOT CSO 22/1/50 pp 303-323

[8] Victorian Crime and Punishment: Separation – Pentonville,  http://vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11642-separation-pentonville.html accessed 12/05/2020

[9] Surgeon’s Journal of His Majesty’s Female Convict Ship Tory 1845   https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs3/ships/SurgeonsJournal_Tory-1845.pdf

[10] Lucy Frost and Alice Meredith Hodgson, (eds) Convict Lives at the Launceston Female Factory, Convict Women’s Press.

[11] Ibid

[12] REGULATIONS OF THE PROBATIONARY ESTABLISHMENT FOR FEMALE CONVICTS IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND July 1, 1845.

[13] https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/innes-frederick-maitland-3835

[14] H. Dower in Port Arthur's Separate Prison punished convicts with psychological torture, ABC Radio Hobart By Georgie Burgess, 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-03/inside-port-arthurs-notorious-separate-prison/11293564

[15] CON138

[16] ATTACHED CORONERS INQUEST

[17] Archives Office of Tasmania, Inquest SC195-1-24-2028

[18] Tasmanian News, Friday 30 September 1898 - Page 4

[19] Daily Telegraph, Thursday 19 January 1911 - Page 4

[20] Daily Telegraph, Saturday 30 January 1897 - Page 6

 

 

Further Resources

REGULATIONS OF THE PROBATIONARY ESTABLISHMENT FOR FEMALE CONVICTS IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND July 1, 1845.

The Legacies of Separate Treatment by Honey Dower.

He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52

 

 

By E. Crawford (Sept.2021)

 

APPENDIX 1

PRISON DISCIPLINE. SEPARATE SYSTEM.

 

 

Read more ...

 

Probation Extended.

The Probation System was introduced in Van Diemen's Land for female convicts in 1843-44. Female convicts spent 6 months at a dedicated probation station upon arrival in the colony – and after satisfactory evidence of amendment and improvement, convicts were classified as probation passholders and hired out to employers for an annual wage.

 

During their probationary period, the women underwent education and training; the intention was to achieve the moral and religious reformation of convicts.  Whilst in the ‘establishment’ they were to be kept at ‘constant employment and those who could not read and write with [tolerable] ease and accuracy were required to attend schools’. [1]

 

Extending the length of probation at the HMS Anson or New Town Farm probation stations was a punishment for mainly trivial offences against convict discipline and regulations. The ‘crimes’ were mostly covered in Clause 9 of the Regulations of the Probationary Establishment for Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, 1 July 1845:

9. All articles of indulgence such as tea, tobacco, &c., are strictly prohibited. Nothing in addition to the rations and clothing supplied by the Government, which are ample, will be allowed.

 

 

Mary Ann Smith per Cadet June 1848, for receiving tea and sugar from one of the boats' crew – probation extended 3 months on board the Anson.

 

Ann Donnelly per Waverley, in January 1848, misconduct in having a quantity of potatoes in her possession, recommended that 3 months be added to her probation.

 

Eliza Jones per Tory in 1849, for having soap improperly in her possession was punished with her probation being extended 2 months.

 

Ann Roberts per Cadet in 1848, while on board the Anson,  had her Probation period extended by one month when she was found guilty of trafficking – by disposing of her wedding ring.

 

 

Probation extensions were generally from one to three months in length, although in theory they could last until the convicts were free by servitude[2]

 

The Superintendent of Convicts,  had the authority to admonish or mete out minor punishments, but anything more serious was referred to the visiting magistrate on his twice-weekly visits to the probationary establishment. Regulations advised that ‘admonition and kindness would, in most cases be found effectual; but if these fail, and it should be found necessary to resort to punishment, extension of the allotted period of probation—or separate or solitary confinement will be found sufficient,… the inevitable consequence of which must be, to delay the period of the offender’s emergence from probation, even—if rendered necessary by her own misconduct—to the termination of her sentence of transportation.[3] [4].

 

It would probably have been highly unpleasant for the women to spend additional probationary time on the HMS Anson, a converted 1,870-ton British warship built in 1812, which was moored on the River Derwent three miles from Hobart Town.  The women would have spent between 3 and 5 months on board a convict transport sailing from Britain, then another 6 months of probation on the HMS Anson on arrival. Probation extensions would have meant longer in cramped and confined conditions.  Extensions would also have contributed to the over-crowding experienced on the Anson during the height of convict transportation: during the 10-year period of the Probation System, approximately 6,650 women arrived. This was half of the total number of convict women sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

 

 

Mary McCann (per Australasia) was sentenced to one of the longer periods of Probation extended in 1849.  Mary refused to attend school and was punished by being placed on probation in a separate apartment at the Cascades Female Factory for six months.

 

 

Probation as a secondary punishment

If a woman was tried in the colony, an additional sentence of Probation was often attached to their primary punishment of transportation, transportation extended, hard labour, Crime Class or imprisonment.  In these cases, the length of time was determined in a court or by a visiting magistrate rather than the Regulations of the Probationary Establishment, and the term of probation would be served in a Female Factory or Gaol - the longest period recorded was 3 years. 

 

 

Mary Keegan (per Australasia 1855) was serving an existing sentence of Transportation when it was extended by 12 months; she was also sentenced to 12 months’ probation.

 

Harriet Hewens (per Sir Robert Seppings 1852): ‘Having been delivered of an illegitimate child whilst in private service, was forwarded to Ross to undergo the usual period of probation’  (Ross Female Factory).

 

 

Standards for recording a probationary sentence on convict conduct records vary widely. On some occasions the notations specifically included the length and location of probation, with accompanying punishments such as hard labour and the initials of the Magistrate or court imposing the sentence. In other cases the full meaning, context or extent of the punishment was not recorded, and it was often worded by the magistrates as a ‘recommendation’.

 

 

Mary Williams (per Westmoreland  1840) was sentenced for absconding: her original term of transportation was extended 2 years and it was recommended she spend 2 months on probation in the Female House of Correction and not again be assigned in the District of Campbell Town.

 

 

Probationary sentences were designed to inflict punishment and encourage reform; [5] the convicts were returned to the strict regulatory and disciplinary regime of a House of Correction or gaol where they would be expected to display good behaviour and religious reformation.  A ticket of leave could be suspended or removed as a consequence of this punishment. Convicts would have to serve their required period of Probation and prove through good behaviour that they could move into the Assignable Class (yard 1) at the House of Correction.  Misconduct could add several months to a period of probation.

 

The Cascades Female Factory had a dedicated Probationary yard (yard 2) where readmitted females convicted of minor crimes were housed, before they passed into the assignable class.[6][7]  Report Of The Committee Of Inquiry Into Female Convict Prison Discipline, 1841, questioned Mr Hutchinson, the Superintendent:

13. Do all the women you receive pass into the crime class?

No: they are sometimes sentenced by the Magistrates warrant to the 2nd or probation yard;  - sometimes to the wash-house yard.[8]

 

Probation as a secondary punishment, while not to be confused with the Probationary System introduced in VDL for female convicts around 1843-44, shares the same underlying aspiration of reformation.

 

The concept of Probation as a punishment was often queried in the media:

Eliza Peacock was "sentenced" to two years additional transportation, and six months probation at the factory for stealing two dollars from some other woman, the " six months" would seem quite sufficient. It is called " probation," rather it should be ultra-punishment. There can be no "probation" where there is no volition. What proof of reform can there be in a prison, or a gang?  The Austral-Asiatic Review, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser, Tuesday 28 January 1840 - Page 7

 

 

See also:

The Probation System:  https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/administration/probation-system

Probation Stations: https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/convict-institutions/probation-stations

The Anson: https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/convict-institutions/probation-stations/anson

 

 

 

[1] Regulations Of The Probationary Establishment For Female Convicts In Van Diemen’s Land Hobart Town July 1st, 1845

[2] Regulations Of The Probationary Establishment For Female Convicts In Van Diemen’s Land Hobart Town July 1st, 1845 Clause 57.

[3]  Regulations Of The Probationary Establishment For Female Convicts In Van Diemen’s Land Hobart Town July 1st, 1845, Clause 53-57.

[4] Regulations Of The Probationary Establishment For Female Convicts In Van Diemen’s Land Hobart Town July 1st, 1845, Clause 53.

[5] The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 11 April 1840 - Page 4

[6]  Rules and Regulations for the management of the House of Correction for Females, 1829

https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/convict-institutions/factory-regulations

[7]  Report Of The Committee Of Inquiry Into Female Convict Prison Discipline, pp. 25-26, https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/disciplineinquiry/TranscriptofInquirywithtables.pdf

[8]  Report Of The Committee Of Inquiry Into Female Convict Prison Discipline, p. 26, https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/disciplineinquiry/TranscriptofInquirywithtables.pdf

 

 

By E. Crawford (Sept 2021)

 

 

 


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

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