Maitland Gaol – Not exactly an “old Gaol”.
The gaol at Maitland only closed in 1998 so it doesn’t really qualify as an “old gaol” in the way some of those we have already visited in Australia. But it’s still another interesting insight into the world of incarceration. A big part of Australian history of course. Or so people think. In reality the early convicts were not housed in such buildings – they were none constructed vey early on. The prisoners were allowed to work outside and do as much or as little as they pleased. We found out about early convict life on our trip to the Hyde Park barracks prison – see that post here. The prison buildings were not built till later. But old prisons that remain have been interesting. Dani and his old dad love them – his mum less so…
Maitland Gaol – a little History
This place still looks operational from the outside. The razor wire around the tops of the walls and guard towers, the cameras and lights still in place.
The first prisoners entered the gaol in 1848. It closed on the 29th January 1998 and any remaining inmates were transferred to other prisons. It closed because security did not meet community expectations, conditions were considered unsuitable and the cost of operating the antiquated facility was excessive. Modern prisons are designed to be operated by far fewer guards thanks to the use of technology and cameras as well as the physical layout.
In the early 1990s new modern wings were built. One to house prisoners who worked in the kitchen and another, high security wing, to house inmates who had committed heinous crimes or crimes against other inmates. All of that cost millions of taxpayers money, only to see the place close in January 1998. Exactly the sort of forward planning and value for money we have come to expect from our elected leaders…
The high security wing housed one of Australia’s most infamous inmates. Ivan Milat; commonly known as “the backpacker murderer”. Milat assaulted, imprisoned, robbed and murdered two men and five women in New South Wales between 1989 and 1993. He spent about a year in Maitland gaol before attempting to escape, after which he was transferred to another gaol. He died in prison.
Inside the Gaol
The older wings and cells are not too dissimilar to some of the older prisons we have visited. The newer cells certainly look more modern with stainless steel sinks and toilets.
The gaol is said to be one of the most haunted places in the state. You can pay for the privilege of a night-time ghost hunting tour. Apparently not for the feint hearted. People actually pay for that! Crazy eh?