After exploring the museum and asylum, I headed for the Model Prison. The prison was so called because it was considered a model of new techniques and ideas that were being tested. Here, the lash was abolished, and solitary confinement was introduced for the most murderous prisoners. For those not in solitary, there was education and training in job skills.
As I noted in the previous post, the Penitentiary was more a place for reformation than for punishment. The Model Prison, on the other hand, was for punishment. Hardened criminals went to the Model Prison, while pickpockets, vagabonds, streetwalkers, and other relatively minor offenders went to the Penitentiary, thus reducing the likelihood of really bad behavior being spread through the population.
The thing that really astonished me about the Model Prison, and indeed about the buildings at Port Arthur in general, is how tremendously solid, well-constructed, and attractive everything was. The concept of shipping a bunch of convicts, soldiers, and administrators to the far side of the planet, dropping them on a narrow, rugged peninsula on an untamed island off the coast of a remote wilderness, and having them cut stone and design and construct buildings that were so clearly created to be impressive and to last a long time—well, it’s just amazing to me.
The image on the left shows the interior of the Model Prison, while the one on the right shows the exercise yards that radiated out of the center of the prison.