28 years later…

THIS month marks the 28th anniversary of the Fremantle prison riot.

The 1988 fiasco was meant to be a diversion for an escape attempt, but prisoners started a fire that quickly got out of control, blocking their escape route.

Flames reached and destroyed the original 130-year-old jarrah roof in four division and half of three division.

Officers were held hostage for 18 hours, but no shots were fired, and no-one died.

Eventually the Metropolitan Security Unit was summoned to help authorities retake control and end the mayhem.

• Aftermath of the Fremantle prison riot. Photo supplied | Fremantle Prison Collection

• Aftermath of the Fremantle prison riot. Photo supplied | Fremantle Prison Collection

At least 17 officers were injured, some seriously; one officer taken hostage became seriously ill in the exercise yard and was traded for food.

Prison director Bevan Beaver estimates the riots caused up to $2 million damage.

“After the riot, prisoners were locked up for one week and temporary kitchen vans were introduced to provide food until order was restored,” he says.

“Additional security measures introduced following the riot included yard turnstiles, and the introduction of a special handling unit and new division cells used to segregate those associated with the riot.”

The prison was decommissioned on November 8, 1991, and prisoners transferred to Casuarina, which replaced Fremantle as WA’s maximum-security gaol for men.


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