The gaol offers a number of cell blocks, each showing a different style of architecture as they were built over the years.
A Wing is the oldest building inside the Gaol walls. It housed the first 40 prisoners to move into the Gaol in 1848 and would be in continued use up until the Gaol’s closure.
A Wing has been modified considerably over its years in operation, with the cells being made smaller and rooms added on the front of the building. During its early occupation it held as many as 80 prisoners, with many women having to be moved to Parramatta to prevent further overcrowding. The doors were modified during the 1950’s with extra pieces of metal being welded on so that the prisoners couldn’t get access to the sandstone.
B Wing has 3 landings which makes it the biggest wing behind the sandstone walls. As you see it today is with modifications, originally the cells in B Wing were designed to be one out, which means one prisoner to a cell. Today every second cell door has been sealed and an archway put between to cells to make them larger. This wing, more than any other, suffered from overcrowding on a regular basis. Electricity into the cells in this wing was not installed until the 1970s and running water and the sewer soon followed.
Like all of the other wings onsite, not only did prisoners spend their night time in these cells they also had to eat their meals in here which meant they would move back into them for lunch daily. In 1995 B Wing closed following the report of the Nagle Royal Commission into the NSW prison system. The Nagle Commission Report was handed down in 1978/79, highlighting many issues with a lot of prisons, but there was no specific mention of conditions in Maitland. The shower block was closed at this time and temporary showers placed in the exercise yards by crane.
C Wing originally held female inmates and their young children. In later years it held debtors, serious offenders as well as the protection and strict protection inmates. These inmates had to be protected against themselves and other inmates because of the crimes they had committed.
This wing contains the two cells which were originally padded, and the only remaining suicide watch cell in the prison. This cell is of modern condition including having security camera’s, Perspex covering windows and doors and a toilet that flushes from the outside of the cell.
5 Wing was built in 1993 at a cost of $3.8 million. It was designed to be a high security area for inmates who had committed the most heinous crimes or serious crimes against other inmates.
Prisoners housed in 5 Wing had a very different routine to other prisoners, they had limited social contact and only had movement between the inside and outside section of their cell for around two hours a day.
Unfortunately as the Gaol was closed in 1998 some of the cells in this wing never housed prisoners. The clinic located at the back was known as the drying out cell for inmates who had swallowed drugs or razor blades. Many of these cells are empty, having had the fixed furniture removed by the Department of Corrective Services in 1998 when the Gaol closed, for reuse in other facilities around the state.
The cells located outside if C and 5 Wings are called segregation cells and were used as an exercise yard for the inmates of C Wing. Gangs of up to ten inmates at any one time would be in these cells, regardless of the time of year or the weather. The majority of prisoners who spent time in the segregation cells were there for their own safety as protection from the rest of the inmates.