The Superintendent’s Dog. About a dozen houses were provided for Superintendents, Chiefs and some Senior prison officers. These houses were situated outside the wire and ran parallel to the side and bottom of the prison. The jail still stands but is no longer in use and the houses have been used as living accommodation for release to work prisoners, and then sex offenders. If you drive past today you will see them decaying and overgrown, a testament to the waste and negligence of government. Not many jails had family’s right next door and yet the people went about their lives, living to the rhythm of a working institution. Naturally there were children and pets in these homes. I can imagine the conversation in the school yard, 1st child, “Where do you live?” 2nd child from the jail, “Oh, next door to the big house.” 1st child, “How big?”2nd child, “Oh there’s about 250 people in it.” You get the drift. There could have been this conversation, child, “Dad, I‘ve got show and tell today, can I take a murderer?” Not likely but I could never come to grips with the idea of ‘living on the job’ like that. The sirens going off, having prisoners mow your yard and do the gardening. The only saving grace would have been the one minute walk to work. One of the Superintendents had a dog, not unusual but this dog was a Dingo cross-breed and he loved to go walkabout. You would be forever chasing him away from the main gate, and then he would wander down to the dairy and get chased from there.
On this day I had to supervise a tradesman while he fixed the perimeter fence, someone had sneaked up the previous night and cut through it. I heard a pitiful howling and screeching and noticed the dog coming down the road between the jail and the houses. It had its bum on the ground and was dragging itself along with its front legs. A prisoner pushing a wheelbarrow followed behind, he had rubbish to be burnt in the diesel-powered incinerator situated about 50 metres from where I stood. We’ll call this fine example of humanity Bruce, amongst his many failings he must have been blind. He didn’t see me standing there as he bludgeoned the poor animal on the head, then throw it kicking and howling into the incinerator. A flick of the switch and whoosh the animal was burnt alive.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first, nothing I said or did would have stopped Bruce it happened that quickly. Deciding to let him think he had got away with his low act I waited until he went back to his work place and let the incinerator run through its cycle before checking it out. Pulling the lever on the side I opened the firebox, not a nice sight, using a small rake I managed to remove a skull, luckily with teeth intact and some bigger bones and placed them in a cardboard box. I took the remains back to the office and showed the Chief who wasn’t interested until I told him whose dog it was. Then the excreta hit the air-conditioning. Statements were written; I interviewed Bruce who denied everything until I showed him the skull. Bruce went to the pound and waited for the police to come out and interview him.
After some artful deduction and questioning of other inmates I managed to find out what happened. Bruce worked at the Bowls Club as a kitchen hand and had been feeding scraps to the dog when he and other inmates were having their smoko. The dog had nipped his hand so he decided to, ‘show it who was in charge.’ The prisoners usually sat at the front of the equipment shed under the veranda of the club. The green-keeper had been servicing a mower and cleaned his hands with turpentine, Bruce soaked a rag in turpentine and while another prisoner held the dog’s jaws shut he rubbed a liberal amount of the liquid into its anus. Naturally the dog howled and screamed, then began running around in circles. Bruce decided that the time had come to make himself scarce and take the rubbish away, and the dog ran ahead of him.
Local Detectives arrived and I presented the case to them, it was obvious they thought the event beneath their talents. After checking Bruce’s record, he had other offences for cruelty to animals and assault they took him away, charged him and put him before a magistrate and the end result? Bruce received an extra six months on his sentence, lost his remission on his original sentence of twelve months and found himself transferred to Townsville jail in far north Queensland. An excellent result, the Super thought I did a good job and the nasty, unwarranted death of a helpless animal was avenged. I have had, over the year’s occasion to put a couple of dogs down. Far from a Vet surgery a bullet has to do, quick and humane. What Bruce did to that poor animal showed a lack of amongst other things, soul. Helpless, trusting, man’s best friend deserved a far better ending.
Love Dolls. Contraband comes in various forms: weapons, drugs, money, home-made booze and porn. They were the main varieties in my day, now you can add mobile phones to the list and it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to realise where the offending phone would be put. Thankfully I didn’t work in a jail where the carrying of weapons was commonplace; I think I only ever found two knives. Newspapers were banned along with radios; you would find the odd ‘crystal radio’ set now and then. The rationale behind the ban was a leftover from the early days; authorities didn’t want prisoners to have access to the names and addresses of victims of crime, or witnesses against them. It seemed a little ludicrous when they were able to watch the news on television and the press had long stopped putting the addresses of victims in their publications. I believe it had to do with horse racing, if they had the weekend race-form and a radio then the jailhouse bookies would flourish.
Officers today have access to latex gloves, Kevlar gloves to protect against needle sticks and specialized drug detection equipment. Then it was all rather hit and miss. One thing I learned early was to use a biro or pencil to poke around in places you couldn’t see. Each cell had an outside locker where the prisoner could leave things out that he may need throughout the day: towel, toiletries, a book or a change of clothing, sports shoes. These lockers were made of pressed metal, with two shelves and a rolled lip underneath the top which had a gap capable of hiding contraband. The locker in question stood outside the cell of a mature prisoner, in for some serious fraud he thought himself above the pack. His cell had been searched two days in a row and he’d complained bitterly. I stopped at his locker, took everything out, checked it and put it back. Then without thinking I ran my fingertips underneath the lip –OUCH! – Yep ten razor blades inserted right up into the lip with their corners facing down on an angle. It hurt, four fingertips sliced open and I bled all over his clean underwear on the top shelf. He denied any knowledge of the blades and in all fairness we couldn’t prove that he put them there, any inmate could have.
Everything in a cell had to be searched and if you did it properly it could take half an hour. Prisoners were allowed hobby materials and these were kept under their beds in cardboard boxes. There were mainly leather workers and matchstick aficionados. Some prisoners had been making belts, handbags and wallets for years and were quite artistic. The matchstick art could be of a high standard, although some I think were done by those who wanted to sniff the glue. The character of ‘Hopalong’ Cassidy, an inmate in my book, Mountain of Death was based on a prisoner in Wacol. He made intricate jewellery boxes, photos frames and chess pieces from match sticks. They didn’t bother me, those who made love dolls out of their mattresses did. Once you found a mattress with a rip or a hole in it then you had to investigate. By now one had a stick to make inroads into strange places.
We are all adults here and sexual urges are a part of human nature, people incarcerated without a sexual partner have to take matters to hand. That didn’t bother me, do it and clean up after yourself. The mattress brigade were different, a hole slashed in the fabric and through to the foam, fill it with Brylcreem (a little dab’ll do ya) then love the night away – just please clean up. The sad thing about it was the next inmate would use the same mattress. It died off a little after a couple were charged with wilful damage. As an aside, “Would a memory foam mattress never forget your special night?”
The Soccer Riot. I liked the weekends, it meant soccer on the Saturday afternoon. I have mentioned in earlier posts about outside teams coming in to play against the inmate team. I think they all dreamed about getting out and playing an away game. The teams came from the local league and were in the lower divisions, never mind, it gave them a distraction for an afternoon. They trained hard and had uniforms supplied by outside soccer teams, some were that keen they had all of their own gear. Officers would go out first and check around the perimeter in case contraband had been left there overnight, or the fence had been cut. We were taken aback this day to find dozens of cars parked by the back gate and more coming. A local Serbian team had turned up with all of their supporters. On a good day we would normally have a team come along squashed in a few cars and the goalies Mum and Dad following in a station wagon with the oranges and cold sponges. Not today, a large crowd of raucous supporters were trying to push through the back gate to get to the sidelines.
It took the threat of cancelling the game before those who could speak English understood enough to realise we were serious. In the end we let the team, the manager and two sponge boys in. The team had five reserve players, and they were all hyped up and ready to play. The linesmen were picked, one prisoner and one sponge boy. Let the games begin. I have never seen a dirtier game of soccer in my life. The prison team weren’t pansies by any means and they began complaining to the referee. I felt sorry for the Ref, a mob of over eighty supporters at the fence, an increasingly angry prison crowd and two teams who wanted blood. There were more yellow cards than you’d find in a Hallmark shop. The Ref, fearing for his life kept somewhere in the middle of the pack and every time he sent a Serbian player off he didn’t notice them walk around the pitch and come back on. At one stage they had fifteen players on the pitch.
In the end our Senior went onto the pitch and informed the Ref, who stopped the game. The heckling and swearing from outside caused the Superintendent (on his day off) to come down and mediate. The Senior pointed out the now agitated group of prisoners on the bleachers, the supporters pulling on the fence and the battered teams eager to keep going. The Ref, with a sore wrist from flashing cards and no spittle left from blowing on his whistle resumed the game. THUD, it was back on and a couple of minutes before full-time the score was one all, quickly becoming two-one with the prison team scoring on a penalty kick.
The crowd went berserk, they jumped on the bonnets of their cars, honked horns, tried to climb the fence – chaos reigned. The Senior took two officers and herded the now volatile prisoners back inside, that left myself and three others to let the visiting team out and escort the Referee to his car. The crowd didn’t know which one was his, yet. If you haven’t been confronted by an angry, hate filled, testosterone fuelled soccer crowd then you haven’t known fear. We had to form a small wall and push the team out through the gate with the Ref crouching behind us. Once outside I locked the gate, we didn’t want them getting back in. The crowd took on an energy of its own; I can still see the faces: sneering, wild, angry. By now we were half way to the Ref’s car when the knives came out. Several young men, some of them players pushed to the front and pulled out flick knives, long thin blades, with the late afternoon sunlight flashing on them as they were waved in the air.
You may have seen the newsreel footage of mobs in the Serbian/ Bosnia conflict, men in suit-coats with thick moustaches chanting angrily. For goodness sake this was a game of football, not a national emergency, not a display of religious intolerance, or genocide – football. Yet – it’s a game that fuels their fervour and obviously flies in the face of their manhood. We weren’t passive throughout this; we had formed a shield around the now terrified Ref. One in front, one each side holding an arm each and one behind and the crowd pressed in. It felt quite satisfying to be able to punch, dig and kick at these louts as we forced our way through. They were that close they couldn’t use the knives without sticking their own.
The Ref had parked far enough away from the others that once behind the wheel he sped off, gravel flying and half a dozen supporters chasing him on foot. That left our fearless foursome with a still restive crowd. Pushing our way back to the gate we felt a huge rush of relief when we spotted reinforcements coming. The Senior had rushed to the armoury and issued four officers with riot gear and ran them back down to the oval. The crowd – cowards that they were shuffled back to their cars, shaking their fists – the sweet outcome? The police waiting for them down on the only road out, even sweeter when the Super put a report in to the Soccer Federation and had them banned from the League. There is some justice in the world.