Paparua Men's Prison: A Social and Political History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Situated amidst farmland 18 kilometres from the centre of Christchurch is Paparua men’s prison, one of New Zealand’s oldest and largest penal institutions. Prisoners have been housed at the Paparua site since 1915 and when the prison buildings were completed in 1925, around 120 prisoners were incarcerated there. Still at the same location where the two original wings continue to accommodate inmates, Paparua has the capacity for nearly 1,000 low to high-security male prisoners.
Despite being almost a century old, very little has been recorded about Paparua, which is symptomatic of the paucity of published material on New Zealand prisons. This thesis seeks to address this shortfall in the literature by, for the first time, documenting the events which have taken place at Paparua and giving insight into life for prisoners there over the last 100 years. These events and the changes to prison life have been driven by the social conditions of the day and their intersection with a complex range of factors at the inmate, community and administrative levels. Paparua’s evolution, therefore, has been the product of the changing socio-political climate and by contextualising the prison’s history I will show how these dynamics have contributed to the development of Paparua.
The research undertaken to achieve such a task involved an historical analysis of 130 years of departmental reports, government reports, parliamentary debates and newspaper articles. This was accompanied by 13 comprehensive interviews with former and current staff and inmates of Paparua.
The reconstruction of Paparua’s past is valuable not only in that it captures the details of an interesting feature of New Zealand history but because it offers insight into the complex range of forces that a are likely to influence its development in the future.