Boggo S2 E14 – Our Strangest State School

Boggo S2 E14Our Strangest State School

Boggo Road Gaol is hardly a place you could imagine that a State School would be. However, in 1948 that’s exactly where there was one was opened. Under the tutelage of an experienced Brisbane State High School teacher, a school for prisoners was opened inside the walls of Boggo Road Gaol. It schooled all kinds of prisoners… from petty thieves and armed robbers to infamous murderers. Come and visit Our Strangest State School.


School inside gaol was not necessarily a new thing.  They had been running education programs inside the walls of the gaol since the early 1930s.  However, it had been under a correspondence type basis, or distance education.  Never before had there been an official state school set up inside the gaol.

Under the tutelage of Mr George Lockie, an experienced Brisbane State High School teacher – a class of 17 youthful offenders made up the school in 1948.  The school was set up to teach the basics, to give prisoners a hand up to move onto a course that will help them obtain meaningful employment upon their release.  While at the same time the school also offered the correspondence school which allowed for trade type courses to be completed.

The school was set up in 1948 in the prison chapel/ concert hall, which was located in the original Men’s division or (old number 1 division)

It was certainly no easy task establishing a school inside a gaol.  The students were all presented with a questionnaire to ascertain their level of education.  Most were at a primary school level of education, while some were at a very limited level and others were at a sub-senior level.   The pupils who were all in for crimes ranging from petty theft to armed robbery were divided into grades and were taught at their individual level.

The Truth newspaper reported on the Strangest State School on the 24th of April 1949.  Stating that the school had opened in February of 1948.  At the time the Truth reporter visited the gaol it had 30 or more students ranging from 18 to 45 years of age.  1949 brought about the program being opened up to men… previously having only been available to youth offenders 18-21, this gave the opportunity for an education to men who still had the chance to start fresh on their release in a new career.

Students were given a canvas satchel and books for their education.  The younger pupils being separated into the Debtors Section of Number 2 Division where they sat at school desks and used a slate and chalk.   The men being given paper and pencils on which to complete their work.

The school would continue to expand over coming years, having to have a roster system for the use of the classroom. Eventually the school program would be expanded into other prisons in the state commencing with Townsville (Stewarts Creek prison in the early 1950’s.

The program was a great success.  With those having completed their courses successfully having a recidivism rate of only 7 in 100 pupils.  When the prison farms program commenced the rate was further reduced to 7 in 500.  It was clear that this was the way forward.

For more about our Strangest State School be sure to tune into our podcast where Gaol Director Jack Sim and Research Coordinator Sue Olsen discuss education inside Boggo Road Gaol. Listen now to  BOGGO the official podcast of Boggo Road Gaol


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