Pentridge Prison

Template:Use Australian English

HM Prison Pentridge
Location Coburg, Victoria

37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917Coordinates: 37°44′21″S 144°58′9″E / 37.73917°S 144.96917°E / -37.73917; 144.96917

Status Closed, partly demolished
Security class Maximum security
Opened 1851
Closed 1997

HM Prison Pentridge was an Australian prison built in 1850 in Coburg, Victoria. The first prisoners arrived in 1851. The prison officially closed on 1 May 1997.[1]

Pentridge was often known by the nickname "The Bluestone College", "Coburg College" or the "College of Knowledge". The grounds were originally landscaped by renowned landscape gardener Hugh Linaker.[2] Since decommissioning, the prison has been partly demolished to make way for a housing development. Large buildings have been built and a 16 floor modern apartment block is being planned.

The site is split in two with the northern prison being developed by Valad Property Group and the other areas by Pentridge Village. The National Trust has expressed strong concerns about the nature of the Heritage Victoria-approved Master Plans which involve peppering the walls with holes and building high-density high-rise between the historic divisions.[3]


The prison was split into many divisions, named using letters of the alphabet.

  • A – Short and long-term prisoners of good behavior but during the late 1980s till its closure it became a scene of many monthly bashings, stabbings and bludgeonings.
  • B – Long-term prisoners with behavior problems
  • C – Vagabonds and short term prisoners, where Ned Kelly was imprisoned (Demolished in 1975)
  • D – Remand prisoners
  • E – A dormitory division housing short term prisoners
  • F – Remand and short-term
  • G – Psychiatric problems
  • H – High security, discipline and protection
  • J – Young Offenders Group- Later for long-term with record of good behavior
  • Jika Jika – maximum security risk and for protection, later renamed K Division

Jika Jika high security unit

Jika Jika, opened in 1980 at a cost of 7 million Australian dollars, was a 'gaol within a gaol' maximum security section, designed to house Victoria's hardest and longest serving prisoners. It was awarded the 'Excellence in Concrete Award' by the Concrete Institute of Australia before being closed, 8 years later, amidst controversy after the deaths of five prisoners in 1987.[4]

The design of Jika Jika was based on the idea of six separate units at the end of radiating spines. The unit comprised electronic doors, closed-circuit TV and remote locking, designed to keep staff costs to a minimum and security to a maximum. The furnishings were sparse and prisoners exercised in aviary-like escape proof yards.

In 1983 four prisoners escaped from ‘escape proof’ Jika Jika. When two prison officers were disciplined in relation to the Jika Jika escape a week-long strike occurred.

1987 Jika Jika prison fire

Inmates Robert Wright, Jimmy Loughnan, Arthur Gallagher, David McGauley and Ricky Morris – from one side of the unit – and Craig 'Slim' Minogue and three other inmates on the other side sealed off their section doors with a tennis net. Mattresses and other bedding were then stacked against the doors. The windows in the day room were then covered with paper so the prison officers couldn't identify which prisoners caused the ensuing damage.

Prisoners Robert Wright, Jimmy Loughnan, Arthur Gallagher, David McGauley and Ricky Morris died in the fire. Convicted Russell Street bomber Craig Minogue and 3 other inmates survived as they were evacuated when the fire started.

Grave sites

Main article: Ned Kelly

The grave site of bushranger Ned Kelly formerly lay within the walls of Pentridge Prison while Ronald Ryan's remains have been returned to his family. Kelly was executed by hanging at the Melbourne Gaol in 1880 and his remains moved to Pentridge Prison in 1929, after his skeleton was disturbed on 12 April 1929 by workmen constructing the present Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) building. Peter Norden, former prison chaplain at Pentridge Prison, has campaigned for the site's restoration.

As of 2009, most of the bodies have been exhumed by archaeologists and have either been re-interred in the original cemetery near D Division, are awaiting identification at the Melbourne morgue or have been returned to their families.

In 2011, Ned Kelly's remains were once again exhumed and returned to his survivng descendants for a proper family burial. His skull however is still missing. Recent DNA testing showed that a skull thought to be his was not in fact his.


Last execution

Main article: Ronald Ryan

Ronald Ryan was the last man executed at Pentridge Prison and in Australia. Ryan was hanged in "D" Division at 8.00 on 3 February 1967 after being convicted of the shooting death of a prison officer during a botched escape from the same prison. Later that day, Ryan's body was buried in an unmarked grave within the "D" Division prison facility.

Notable prisoners


  • 1850's 'F' Division opened
  • 1870's 'G' Division opened as an Industrial Reformatory School
  • 1894 Female prison at Pentridge ('D' Division)
  • 1951 Last woman executed in Australia, Jean Lee is hanged.
  • 1967 Last execution in Australia – Ronald Ryan (between 1842 and 1967, 186 prisoners were executed)
  • October 1987 – Five prisoners die in a fire in Jika Jika during riots over prison conditions. Craig Minogue and 3 other inmates survived the fire.
  • 1 May 1997 – Pentridge Prison is closed.
  • Present day – Development threatens the integrity and preservation of the sites important history


  • 1851 Frank Gardiner - one of fifteen to escape that day
  • 1899 Pierre Douar – Suicided after recapture
  • 1901 Mr Sparks – never heard of again
  • 1901 John O'Connor – Caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1926 J.K. Monson – caught several weeks later in W.A.
  • 1939 George Thomas Howard – caught after two days
  • 1940 K.R. Jones – Caught in Sydney two weeks later
  • 1951 Victor Franz – caught next day.
  • 1952 Kevin Joiner – Shot dead escaping
  • 1952 Maxwell Skinner – pushed off prison wall, broke leg[12]
  • 1957 Willam O'Malley – caught after 15 minutes
  • 1957 John Henry Taylor – caught after 15 minutes
  • 1961 Maurice Watson – caught next day
  • 1961 Gordon Hutchinson – caught next day [13]
  • 1965 Ronald Ryan – caught in Sydney 19 days later
  • 1965 Peter Walker – caught in Sydney 19 days later
  • 1972 Dennis Denehy – [14]
  • 1972 Gary Smedley – [14]
  • 1972 Alan Mansell – [14]
  • 1972 Henry Carlson – [14]
  • 1973 Harold Peckman – [15] caught next day
  • 1974 Edward "Jockey" Smith – [16]
  • 1974 Robert Hughes –
  • 1974 George Carter – [17]
  • 1976 John Charles Walker – [18]
  • 1977 David Keys – [19]
  • 1977 Peter James Dawson and three others [20]
  • 1980 Gregory David Roberts (at the time known as Gregory Smith) – escaped in broad daylight with Trevor Jolly and subsequently went to India after a brief period in New Zealand [21]
  • 1980 Trevor Jolly – [21]
  • 1982 Harry Richard Nylander – [22]
  • 1987 Dennis Mark Quinn – [23] Recaptured in New Zealand 19 days later.

Usage in media

  • The front gate showing the "HM Prison Pentridge" sign is featured on the cover of Australian band Airbourne's debut album Runnin' Wild.[24]
  • Episode 2, Homecomings of the 1976 ABCTV adaption of Frank Hardy's Novel Power Without Glory features John West picking his brother Frank West up from Pentridge Prison after serving 12 years for rape.
  • The 1988 John Hillcoat and Evan English film "Ghosts... Of The Civil Dead" was largely based on events which occurred in Pentridge Prison's infamous Jika Jika Maximum Security prison during the lead up to the 1987 fire.
  • The 1994 Australian film Everynight ... Everynight details prison life inside Pentridge's H Division.[25]
  • The 2000 Andrew Dominik film "Chopper" was partially filmed in H Division.
  • In the 1997 Australian film The Castle, Wayne was a prisoner of HM Prison Pentridge.


External links

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