Remembering the Past Australia

Regulations with Respect to the Prisoner Population — Van Diemen's Land


As published in 'The Van Diemen's Land Almanack 1831'; Hobart Town; Edited and Printed by Henry Melville, Colonial Times Newspaper Office.

Government Orders, Notices, etc.
Regulations with respect to the Prisoner Population generally.
(Select Regulations of 9 August 1826; 30 September 1826; 5 December 1828)


AUGUST 9, 1826.—The Prisoners’ Barracks in Hobart Town, which has hitherto been considered as a Penitentiary only, will, in future, be appropriated for the reception of prisoners in the service of Government generally, with a view to the more effectual application of their labour, and the prevention of offences arising from so many men being at large. 

The Lieutenant Governor being nevertheless desirous to extend to those of good character all reasonable indulgence, has directed the following classification to be observed, so far as it may be practicable, throughout the Colony, and which is therefore published for the information of all concerned. 

The Heads of Departments are required to make the same known to the prisoners under their charge, and to explain, that while the industrious and well-conducted will not fail to receive due encouragement, even beyond what is now promulgated, those of irregular habits will assuredly be compelled to labour, without remission, through the several gradations, until, by the expiration of their offences and improved demeanour, they shall be considered worthy to be restored to the privileges annexed to the second and first classes, or to the still higher privilege of being placed in the service of respectable settlers. 

First Class. 

To consist of such men, whether mechanics or labourers, as from especial good conduct will be permitted to sleep out of barracks, and to work for themselves the whole of each Saturday. 

Second Class. 

Those for whom barrack accommodation shall be provided, and who, subject to a continuance of good behaviour, will be allowed to work for themselves the whole of each Saturday. 

Third Class. 

Men employed on the public roads, who will be released from work every Saturday at noon, subject however to the condition of good behaviour. 

Fourth Class. 

Refractory or disorderly characters to work in irons, either in the towns or on the roads, under the sentence of a Magistrate. 

Fifth Class. 

Men of the most degraded and incorrigible character, who will be worked in irons, under the sentence of a Magistrate, and kept entirely separate from other prisoners. 

Sixth Class.

Men removed to Maria Island, subject to the classification of the Commandant there.

Seventh Class. 

Men removed to Macquarie Harbour, subject to the classification of the Commandant there. 


SEPTEMBER 30, 1826.—Frequent references and complaints having been made to the Lieutenant Governor of the unreasonable demands and lavish expenditure of clothing and food by prisoners of the Crown, His Excellency has given to the subject his particular attention in Council, and has directed the following regulation to be published for general guidance:

1.—In order that no excuse for the non-performance of a just proportion of labour may be adduced by the convict, it will be the indispensable duty of his master to furnish him with the following rations per week:— 

Meat, 103 lbs.; flour, 103 ditto; sugar, 7 ounces; soap, 33 ditto; and salt, 2 ditto. Any further quantities of these articles, or any tea or tobacco, are to be supplied at the discretion of the master, in case he shall think them proper or necessary, as a stimulus to industry, or under special circumstances. 

2.—It will also be the duty of the master to furnish each servant with woollen slop clothing, 2 suits; stock-keeper’s boots, 3 pairs; shirts, 4; cap or hat, 1, per annum. Bedding, to consist of a palliasse stuffed with wool, two blankets and a rug, to be considered the property of the master, and retained by him on the discharge of the servant. Of a quality equal to those issued from the Public Stores. 

3.—The supply of food and clothing above specified, with comfortable lodging and medicine in the event of illness, being deemed fully equivalent, no payment of wages is in future to be demanded by the convict, and it is strongly recommended that none should be allowed. 

4.—The arrangements thus prescribed will be specified in an instrument of assignment, the conditions of which will be rigidly enforced. 

5.—When a prisoner is in future to be assigned to a settler, he will receive a complete suit of slop clothing from the Public Stores, for which his master must pay, on delivery, the cost price, and charges of importation. The rate of a suit is, for the present, fixed at one pound ten shillings. — By this mode it is hoped to obviate the dissatisfaction which has been frequently expressed at receiving servants from the Government insufficiently clothed.

⇨ By a subsequent order the price of slops was altered to be one guinea, instead of thirty shillings. 

The regulations of the 30th September, 1826, fixing the quantity of rations and clothes to male convicts in private service, having proved very beneficial in their operation, the Lieutenant Gonant (sic) Governor has deemed it necessary to regulate in like manner the quantities to be allowed to female convicts, and has directed the following allowances to be notified for general information:

The weekly ration to consist of 83 lbs. of flour, 54 lbs. of meat, 2 oz. of tea, 3 lb. of sugar, 2 oz. of soap, 13 oz. of salt. 

The wearing apparel to consist of, per annum, 1 cotton gown, 2 bed gowns or jackets, 3 shifts, 2 flannel petticoats, 2 stuff ditto, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 calico caps, 3 pairs of stockings, 2 neck handkerchiefs, 3 check aprons, 1 bonnet. 

The above articles of dress to be of a plain and neat description, not exceeding the cost of seven pounds per annum; and beyond which allowance the Lieutenant Governor strongly recommends that no female convict should be remunerated. 

Each assigned female servant is also to be furnished with bedding, to consist of a palliasse, stuffed with wool, two blankets, and a rug, which are to be considered the property of the master, and retained by him on the discharge of the servant.


DECEMBER 5, 1828.—The Lieutenant Governor having reason to fear that the instructions which have from time to time been given, respecting the employment of convicts on Saturday, are not duly attended to ; all persons in charge of prisoners, whether employed in the towns or in the country, are distinctly to understand that, with the exception of married men, or men of particularly good conduct, who are permitted the indulgence of sleeping out of Barracks, and allowed the benefit of one day in the week for the purpose of providing their own lodgings, all convicts are to be employed until the dinner hour on Saturdays, the afternoons being set apart for the washing and mending of their clothes.

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