Year 12 legal Studies Excursion

In celebration of Humanities Week 2024, the Unit 3 Legal Studies classes visited the now-discontinued Pentridge Prison to gain insights into historical imprisonment practices in Victoria. The excursion brought tangibility to the VCE Legal Studies curriculum, particularly in understanding the types and purposes of sanctions. We explored the sanction of ‘imprisonment’ and how, historically, prisons aimed to protect the community, punish offenders, and attempt to reform and rehabilitate inmates using the brutal methods of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Our tour commenced with a brief history of Pentridge Prison, explaining its establishment as a stockade to address the overcrowding at Melbourne Gaol (now Old Melbourne Gaol). We learned about numerous escapes from Pentridge, including the infamous escape attempt by William O’Meally, who shot a prison guard. This incident led to O’Meally being one of the last individuals in Australia to receive corporal punishment, suffering twelve strokes of the cat-o’-nine-tails and being denied medical attention afterward.

We then proceeded to the notorious H Division, known as ‘Hell Division,’ which housed some of Australia’s most famous prisoners, including Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, Ronald Ryan, and William O’Meally. Students were provided with iPods for a self-guided tour of Hell Division, where we visited cells and listened to audio descriptions of the harsh conditions and procedures that existed there. H Division was essentially a prison within a prison and is renowned for its unique and brutal practices. Inmates were required to break solid bluestone rocks into pebbles no larger than fingernails, fostering a sense of hard work and discipline.

The tour allowed students to imagine what life in prison was like in the past and how it compares to the present, with 14 prisons currently operating in Victoria. Although corporal punishment is now unlawful, today’s prison conditions remain undesirable, with severe misbehavior leading to 23-hour lockdowns for inmates.

Overall, the excursion was a resounding success, enriching our understanding of criminal law and its sanctions. On behalf of the Year 12 Legal Studies classes, I would like to thank Mr. Augustus for organizing the excursion and for his continued hard work not only as a Legal Studies teacher but as the Humanities Learning Leader as well. I also extend my gratitude to the other attending staff, Mr. Bermingham, Ms. Hermon, and Ms. Iverson.

Brodie G
Year 12 Student