Crime and Punishment

Convicts and former convicts were not the only ones to be caught up in the scandals, crimes and corruption of the past. The 60 kilometres of NSW State archives include many records about others who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. These include police, court and gaol records from the colony’s earliest days. Many of these records can be searched through the indexes and finding aids on State Records’ website.

Of the 80,000 convicts who were transported to NSW, many settled down to live law abiding lives. Others continued their lives of crime, some coming to a grisly end. Convicts and former convicts were not the only ones to be caught up in the seedier side – the scandals, crime and corruption – of our past.

Of these records, some of the most useful and informative are the gaol photographs. The practice of photographing prisoners for inclusion in the description books commenced late in the nineteenth century and continued into the twentieth century. In addition to the image of the prisoner these records generally provide information on the person’s native place; year of birth; details of arrival in the colony; trade or occupation, religion, degree of education and a physical description.

These examples which have been selected from State Records extensive holdings of photograph description books illustrate the richness of this collection.

Related galleries

List of prisoners in the gaol photos above

Darlinghurst Gaol

  • BERRY, Thomas
  • BRAY, Florence Elizabeth
  • COLLINS, Louisa
  • DILLON (or WALSH), Ellen
  • GREENWOOD, Margaret – also featured in our 50 Years at State Records Gallery
  • HOYLES, William Talbot
  • MURPHY, James
  • SELFE, Arthur
  • THOMAS, Jane
  • WILLIAMS, Thomas

Goulburn Gaol

  • KENT, Mary Ann

Long Bay Gaol

State Reformatory for Women

Trial Bay

  • BUTLER, Thomas Richard
  • LEWIS, Ellis
  • LYALL, James Harold
  • REID, Thomas George