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Piecing Together a History of Suva Prison

Halter, Nicholas (2022) Piecing Together a History of Suva Prison. In: Suva Stories: A History of the Capital of Fiji. ANU Press, Canberra, pp. 187-206. ISBN 9781760465346

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Suva Prison has long been an imposing concrete landmark in the capital of Fiji – whereas once its walls and buildings symbolised modernity and the progress of the British colony in Fiji, today they represent the decay and dereliction of incarceration. Constructed to be the main prison in the colony, Suva Prison in 2020 is one of 15 ‘correction centres’ and serves as a receiving and remand centre. Despite its prominent position in the capital, little is known of the lives of its transient inhabitants. Not only have they been physically obscured behind the whitewashed coral walls that line Foster Road, they have also been lost within the colonial archive. What little remains tells a story of a racially divided Fiji under British colonial rule and haphazard efforts to regulate and control a dissident populace. This chapter pieces together the archival remnants of Fiji’s colonial prison system to chart the development of the Suva prison from its establishment in the new capital in the 1880s until the 1960s. It considers the construction of prison buildings, the segregation and classification of prisoners, the system of punishment and discipline that was imposed and the reforms to prison legislation and operations. The 1960s was a significant decade for Fiji’s prisons, marked by the implementation of a new Fiji Prisons Act in 1966 that sought to address international standards for imprisonment and rehabilitation. It was also a decade when Suva Prison inmates prepared to move to a new facility at the same time as the country prepared for independence from Britain in 1970. Most of Fiji’s colonial prison records from the late nineteenth century onwards were stored at Suva Prison and destroyed in a fire during a prison riot in 1979. What remains is a varied collection of papers from the Colonial Secretary’s Office (CSO files), Legislative Council minutes and Annual Colonial Reports to Britain containing correspondence, prisoner records and statistics. As a result, scholars have relied on the account of BM Sellers, superintendent of prisons in 1962, who published the only documented history of Fiji’s prison service in the Proceedings of the Fiji Society. Piecing together the archival remnants of Fiji’s colonial prison system offers an understanding of the institutionalised and racialised colonial hierarchies and assumptions of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DU Oceania (South Seas)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: School of Law and Social Sciences (SoLaSS)
Depositing User: Nicholas Halter
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2022 01:55
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2022 01:55

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