Male Prisoner Classification Files
||Circa 1940 - 1992
||Series in Custody
||? 1940 - 1985
||? 1920 - 1985
|Format of Records:
|Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series|
|Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series|
|Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series|
- How to use the Records
Due to the Fragmented nature of the pre 1959 files and because of the various changes in the method of controlling these files researchers will need to be aware of several important points.
1. If the person you are interested in was a prisoner prior to 1959 then the file may be located in either P1 or P2 consignments. It should be noted, however, that only a portion of the files created prior to 1959 have survived.
2. If the person you are interested in was a prisoner after 1959 then you will need to consult the Index to Male Prisoner Cards (VPRS 11896) to ascertain their prisoner number. These files form the bulk of those in custody and are located in the P3 consignment.
3. If the person you are interested in was only in prison on a short sentence (i.e. shorter than three months) then a file may exists, but as short-sentence prisoners did not generally received a prisoner number, these files have been incorporated into the P2 consignment.
- Function / Content
These files were created by the Prisoner Classification Committee, based at Pentridge, to record details of each prisoners background. This information was then used by the Classification Committee to determine at which type of institution the prisoner was to be confined and what level of security would be required.
Prior to the Early 1950s classification of prisoners in Victoria was based on the sex of the offender, age and type of crime committed. In 1950 the Inspector-General of Penal Establishments spent six months in Europe and the United States studying modern prison techniques. The report, published in October 1951, recommended sweeping changes to the Victorian prison system.
Some of the recommendations involved the classification of prisoners. From around 1956 grater emphasis was placed on prisoner training; particularly programs designed to raise the educational levels of prisoners. The target group was prisoners with very low literacy and numeracy skills. Several prisons were equipped with primary level schools and prisoners were sent to whichever prison the Classification Committee thought could benefit them educationally. Proximity of family members was also considered.
The files contain a classification sheet detailing the prisoners personal history including information regarding birthplace, education, work history, religion, intelligence level and immediate family.
The classification sheet also contains the Classification Committees decision on the prisoner providing such information as security level required (maximum, medium or minimum), employment during sentence, training while in prison and the institution (prison) to which the prisoner is to be sent.
The files may also contain information regarding the prisoners prior convictions, progress reports on behaviour during incarceration and special reports (such as reports which describe prisoners reaction to transfers between divisions of a prison or to other prisons). Files may contain reports written by the Classification Officer and review of the prisoners classification. Sometimes a record of the prisoners training while in prison is included.
Some files may also contain photographs of the prisoner and/or newspaper reports concerning the prisoners crime.
In the 1960s the classification system was again altered. A file for each prisoner was created by central administration and the initial prison to which the prisoner was sent crated another file. The prison file followed the prisoner from prison to prison. It is apparent from viewing these records that the central file contains more information than the prison file. In 1985, due to computerisation, the system was again changed and although two files continued to be created, one centrally and the other by the prison, all the important documentation was kept on the prison file and the central file contained mostly duplicates. This series is still subject to further research.
A small portion of the files related to individuals who were held in prison pending deportation. These files are denoted on the cover with the words Deportee.
Contents Date Range
The date range of the records in this series is from approximately 1940 to 1985. However, some files may contain papers from an earlier period. If a former prisoner re-offended, their previous file was reactivated (prisoner numbers were also reused if the prisoner was a re-offender) and papers from the later period of detention were added to the existing file.
- Recordkeeping System
This series is arranged alphabetically by prisoner surname. This was not the original order of this series. Originally the P1 consignment was arranged in prisoner number order. When a person was sent to prison they were given a number which was used to identify them during their period of detention. The prisoner numbers were allocated consecutively. Following the review of prisons in the mid 1950s the prisoner numbers were allocated using an annual single number system probably as part of a file based system. The number was prefixed by the year of creation (i.e. 57/515). Prisoners who re-offended were given the same number allocated to them during their previous period of detention.
The files in the P1 consignment were found in tea chests at Pentridge in 1990 and were thought to be the only remaining classification files from the period 1940 to 1960. Many of the files were water damaged and many have not survived. Due to the poor state of these records and the random order in which they were found, the files were re-arranged into alphabetical order by prisoner surname by the Office of Corrections.
It is not known what system was used to allocate prisoner numbers when the annual single number system was implemented in the middle of the 1950s . However in the early 1980s (prior to computerisation) prisoner numbers within an annual single number sequence were allocated from a register. The Register, in card format, recorded the number and names of the prisoner and this number was used to control all files regarding that prisoner. As in previous years, ex-prisoners who re-offended were re-allocated their original number.
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