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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

District Gaol

District Gaol.

The Terrace Gaol, Woolcombe Street, Wellington, occupies one of the pleasantest situations in the City, and it is so well provided with trees and ornamental grounds that it is a long way from being the eyesore that Mount Cook Gaol seems destined ever to be. The area enclosed is about twelve acres. The cells are each provided with a hammock, blankets, and pillow, a dish, a pannikin, a tin knife, and a wooden spoon. A bible and hymn book are also provided for each cell. There is a library stocked with books of only the best writers, to which the prisoners have access; and those who are unable to read and write have every opportunity afforded them of learning. Many of the prisoners improve their education considerably during their incarceration. Cleanliness is, of course, insisted on, sufficient baths being provided to admit of the prisoners having a bath every week, hot water being supplied only on medical grounds. The prisoners rise at 5.30 all the year round, and are locked up for the night at 6.30 in winter and 7.30 during the summer months. They have three meals a day, the midday meal consisting of soup, meat, and potatoes. Mutton and beef are served boiled on alternate days. The special class good-conduct men are allowed baked meat; and all are served with a mug of tea without milk. All meals are served in the cells. This is an alteration made by Mr. Garvey, with the consent of Colonel Hume, as the effect upon the less hardened criminals of mixing with the others in a common dining-room was found to be very baneful. A great improvement is noticeable as the result of this change. Very great efforts are made to insure that the prison shall be a reformatory institution, and not a “training-school for criminals,” and to keep the prisoners as much apart as possible is a necessary step to all measures of reform. The gaol hospital is often without a patient, though the doctor calls twice a week, and immediately attends to a summons when required. When the hospital is empty it is used as a dormitory for some twenty-eight of the older men who need more careful treatment. In very cold weather a little fire is provided for them. This indulgence is greatly appreciated, and does much to foster the “good conduct” which is practically the price of admission to the comforts. On entering the gaol, a prisoner is weighed and his height measured, and these particulars are duly recorded, with a description of complexion including the exact colour of his eyes and hair, and a minute account of the marks on his body. He is then thoroughly bathed, though sometimes it is necessary that he be bathed first for these particulars to be accurately taken, the colour of the eyes being the only point absolutely unaffected by a thorough cleansing of the person. All the clothes and legitimate effects belonging to a prisoner are cleansed and carefully kept, to be given him on his discharge; but should his own clothes be insufficient, he is provided with a decent suit of no recognisable description, good strong boots, socks, and underclothing, page 344
The Terrace Gaol.

The Terrace Gaol.

and a small amount of money. Formerly expirees were all discharged in suits of the same material, but this change is one of a number of prison regulations innovated during the last few years. All the clothing and boots for the prisoners are made at the gaol, as part of the prison labour; and furniture, tinware, mats, etc., are provided in that way. The tinware for all the gaols in the Colony is turned out at the Wellington Gaol. Bricks are made in large numbers at the Mount Cook Gaol, and are of such good quality that contractors are only too eager to get them, and will readily pay five shillings per thousand more for them than for the bricks by ordinary makers. Brickmaking is the principal work done at Mount Cook, whither the prisoners from the Terrace Gaol are marched, before seven o'clock in the morning. The average number of prisoners in the Terrace Gaol for 1895 was 140. During that year 667 were admitted and 650 discharged. About twenty per cent, are females, but the efforts of the Salvation Army and other religious bodies are tending to reduce the percentage of female criminals. During 1895 only twenty-nine prisoners were punished. The daily sick average was £52. On admission four were under fifteen, and thirty-three over sixty years old. Flogging has almost ceased, and cannot now, as formerly, be administered on the authority of two visiting justices. The sentence of the judge of the Supreme Court, delivered at the time of trial, is the only authority for flogging. Capital punishment, as everyone knows, has not yet been abolished; but the little plot in front of the gaol contains but seven mounds, of which all are neatly preserved and labelled with the initials only of those whose remains lie beneath. A gallows is kept at this gaol for the use of the Colony, and is erected here or shipped away as the locality of the case may require. Throughout the Gaol there is abundant evidence of perfect order and cleanliness, the only alteration which the most fastidious in this respect could suggest being a daily instead of a weekly bath. That one bath a week is sufficient for fair bodily cleanliness is very probable; but it is more than likely that a bath every day would have a salutary effect, mentally and morally, which it were folly to despise. This, however, is a matter of prison regulation, and in no way affects the reputation of any particular gaol. In the opinion of the compilers of the Cyclopedia the Wellington Gaol is an exemplary institution and one conducted on lines well abreast of prison reform, as represented in New Zealand by the Legislation and public opinion of to-day.

Mr. P. S. Garvey, the Governor of the Terrace Gaol and the Probation Officer for Wellington and District, was born and educated in Ireland. For nearly seven years prior to leaving for New Zealand in 1874 he was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary Force, where he gained experience which has since been of much use to him in this country. Mr. Garvey came to the Colony as a young man about twenty-three years of age, and his advancement in the service has been much more than ordinarily rapid. Almost immediately on his arrival he was appointed clerk to the prison in page 345 Mr. P. S. Garvey Canterbury. After holding the position for some six years, and concluding that promotion was more probable in the other branch of the service, he volunteered for discipline duty. Six months later, early in 1882, Mr. Garvey was transferred to Wellington as chief warder-in-charge at Mt. Cook Gaol. After two years in that office he was promoted to the position of gaoler at Mount Cook, and in 1885, on the retirement of the late Mr. Micaiah Reid from the Governorship of the Terrace Gaol, Mr. Garvey was appointed his successor, with the additional duties of supervising the prisoners at Mount Cook. The appointment of Probation Officer has since been bestowed upon him. Mr. Garvey is a strongly built, active man, and one in every way well qualified for the position he holds. He has the reputation of being punctilious in matters of discipline, but by no means harsh, while he does everything in his power for the welfare of the prisoners committed to his charge. The following characteristic sketch, written by a pressman in a series of articles on his experience as a first-class misdemeanant in the Terrace Gaol, appeared in the Evening Post on the 14th of January, 1893:—“The warder then took me out of the cell and introduced me to the gaoler, Mr. Garvey. To most people Mr. Garvey's name is familiar, and his establishment, described by the Chief Justice as the Terrace Gaol, is more familiarly known in New Zealand French as the ‘Hotel de Garvey,’ alias ‘Garvey's Hotel’ Mr. Garvey is a born gaoler. With his keen eye he soon takes the measure of the variety of humanity that comes before him, and that with the greatest accuracy of judgment. He is of commanding presence, an independent character, a thorough Irishman, and an honour to his country and to the military school with which he was connected in early life. Mr. Garvey told me that he did not regard me as the general class of fellows who came under his care, and would do all he could to reduce the discomforts of gaol life. ‘But,’ said he, ‘there are always two sides to these questions, and of course I must carry out the regulations.”