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The Letter in the Bread

Prisoners were allowed to write letters to relatives once every two months on special paper provided by the authorities. These were read and initialled by the Superintendent before despatch to the mainland. No other letter-writing was permitted.

Letter in bread

If there were hazards for prisoners in writing illegal letters on the island, the risks were even greater in trying to have those illegal letters secretly carried from the prison to their mainland destinations.

The customary method involved the use of prisoner mates on their day of discharge. There were also corrupt warders who were prepared to risk their careers as prison officers in return for favours.

The prison records do not of course reveal how many attempts at smuggling illegal letters off the island were successful. The failures, however, were recorded. For example…

On a Monday morning in July 1905, James Thomas, a prisoner who was about to be released later that day, was handed a thicker than usual slice of bread as part of his breakfast issue.

Embedded in the bread was a letter addressed to a Cunnamulla destination and, but for a watchful warder, the hand-over may well have been successful.

The illegal letter had been written by the head cook in the prison kitchen.

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