Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gaol or Hospital? Stories From The Gladstone Gaol: Part IV

Gaol or Hospital?
Stories From The Gladstone Gaol: Part IV

Gladstone Gaol was built at massive expense to the colony in 1879, and many questioned why such a building was erected in such a remote location. In its many years of operation it never really saw any hardened criminals, other than those waiting to be transferred to Adelaide Gaol. There was no long term serious offenders within its walls. They would all be transported to Adelaide Gaol to see out their long prison terms, instead, Gladstone Gaol was used to house mainly drunks and people who couldn't pay their debts.
Looking down on the inside of the tower
© Allen Tiller

Mostly the gaol housed the sick and the disabled, and more often than not, it would see the sick and elderly be transferred from other Gaols in the South Australian colony.
It was common practice to remove the frail and ill from Adelaide Gaol and send them to Gladstone to see out their days, most were elderly women, who would pass away within her walls.
Here is one such example below found in a newspaper, I also talked about Eliza Evershed in part one of this series, who was also transferred from Adelaide Gaol, and passed in Gladstone – seems to be a common theme doesn't it?

The South Australian Advertiser Tuesday 1 December 1885 – page 5
Caroline F. C. Grahlow, an old woman, died in gaol yesterday. An inquest on the body was held at the gaol by Mr. Ingram J.P., Mr. Stewart being foreman of the jury.
The evidence of the doctor, matron, and keeper was taken, and a verdict was returned that death occurred from natural causes. The woman's age was 65. She was sentenced in  Adelaide to four years' hard labor for burning a dwelling-house, and had served nearly eighteen months of the term. She had been ailing ever since her arrival here, and a fort-night ago the doctor asked for a remission of the remainder of her sentence owing to her suffering, but the order for her release only came here this morning. Up to the time of her death she did not acknowledge the crime for which she was sentenced. Mrs. Rofran, sister of the deceased, arrived by train from Adelaide this afternoon with a coffin, and there mains were taken back again by this evening's train for interment in Adelaide. It seems that the Government will persist in weeding out all cripples and dying people from the Adelaide gaol to this one. Since its establishment the Gladstone gaol has been nothing better than a hospital, and many complaints have been made, but to no purpose. It is said most of the prisoners in the gaol here are invalids from Adelaide, the case of the poor woman who died yesterday is a most pitiable one, and should be enquired into
Between the walls of Gladstone Gaol
© Allen Tiller

By the end of the year of 1885, things had not improved at Gladstone Gaol as this newspaper story from the South Australian Weekly Chronicle attests
South Australian Weekly Chronicle Saturday 19 December 1885

Gladstone, December 16.
A prisoner has been released from the gaol in order to go into the Adelaide Hospital. The poor woman had to be carried into the train this morning. She is utterly helpless, and in a pitiable state. A male and a female warder from Adelaide came for her, and under their charge the prisoner was taken away. Dr. Hamilton ordered her removal. This is another instance of sending prisoners here in a frail condition, making this prison an asylum for sick criminals."

The Gaol, although built to house prisoners, seems to have spent more time being a hospital and way point/transfer station of inebriates and debtors more-so than an actual prison. Although it had a number of escapes over the years, only one man was never found. The Gaol did have a few deaths happen within her walls, but none from execution, riot, experimentation or firing squad !