Saturday, June 17, 2023

Ask ChatGPT: Pentridge Prison then and now

HM Prison Pentridge, located in Melbourne, Australia, was a significant correctional facility that operated from 1851 to 1997. Over its long history, Pentridge gained a notorious reputation as one of the country's most notorious prisons. Here's an overview of its background and key aspects:

  • Establishment: Pentridge was established during the Victorian gold rush to accommodate the rising number of convicts. It was named after the nearby Pentridge village (now Coburg).
  • Architecture: The prison's original design was based on the panopticon concept by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. It featured a central watchtower surrounded by radial wings, enabling a small number of guards to monitor large cell blocks.
  • Inmates: Pentridge housed various types of inmates, including convicts, prisoners serving short sentences, and high-profile criminals. Some notable inmates included infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, gangster Squizzy Taylor, and the "Petty Gang" led by Joseph and David Cohen.
  • Living Conditions: The conditions at Pentridge were notoriously harsh, especially during its early years. Overcrowding, inadequate facilities, and a lack of sanitation contributed to the prison's reputation for being brutal and dehumanizing.
  • Executions: Pentridge was the site of many executions throughout its history. The first execution took place in 1866, and the last occurred in 1967. The gallows, known as the "Ned Kelly scaffold," were used for public hangings until 1924 when executions were conducted privately.
  • Riots and Escapes: Pentridge experienced several riots and escape attempts. One of the most significant riots occurred in 1987 when inmates set fire to the prison, resulting in significant damage. Over the years, various inmates managed to escape, leading to high-profile manhunts and public fascination.
  • Closure and Redevelopment: Pentridge Prison was officially closed in 1997 due to its outdated infrastructure and inadequate facilities. Following its closure, the site underwent significant redevelopment. The original prison walls were preserved, and the area was transformed into a residential and commercial precinct known as Pentridge Village.

Today, Pentridge Village stands as a mixed-use development combining historic elements with modern amenities. The prison's remaining buildings serve as a reminder of Melbourne's penal history and have been repurposed into apartments, retail spaces, and a museum dedicated to preserving the prison's legacy. Pentridge Prison Tours || TFE Hotels officially launches Pentridge precinct venues

Photos: Roderick Eime

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