Small, rectangular, cream coloured card, evidence tag for shiv (1994.155.1). Small, rectangular piece of cream card with the two corners along left edge cut off. In the centre along the left edge of the tag is a small, circular hole, through which a short piece of wide, flat, red string is tied. Either side of the hole, along the left edge of the tag, is printed, 'unitags 3744'. On the front of the tag, printed across the top in bold black ink and underlined, is 'O.H.M.S.' Underneath, stamped on to the front of the tag in blue ink is a District Court of Western Australia stamp, which is fading. Handwritten annotations have been added to the stamp in black pen. In its entirety, the stamp and annotations read, 'IN THE COURT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA/ R V RIOTERS/EXHIBIT 000 put in by ROBBINS/ for R identified by LETCH/ No 842/88 Date 2 FEB 88'.
This evidence tag accompanies the shiv (1994.155.1) which was found in 3 Division Yard on 21st April 1988, during the Prosecution team's visit to Fremantle Prison after the January 1988 riot. This evidence tag states, 'In the District Court of Western Australia. R vs Rioters Exhibit 000 put in by Robbins for R. Identified by Letch No 842/88 Date 2 Feb 88'.
This evidence tag was located by volunteer Laura Connell in the ORS files in the Research Library along with the printed data sheet for the shiv (1994.155.1). This tag had previously been accessioned, however it had not been entered into Mosaic. The shiv was located in Refractory and renumbered correctly with the series part along with the evidence tag.
The 1988 riot at Fremantle Prison was the most damaging in the institution’s history. Instigated in response to the Prison’s archaic conditions, the high summer temperatures and general boredom were also contributing factors.
At 3:30pm on 4 January, prisoners in 3 Division yard stormed into the Main Cell Bock. Using improvised weapons and boiling water they took five officers hostage and stole their keys. The prisoners lit fires, using newspapers, cell furniture and fuel from the Prison’s lawnmower which they had been secretly stockpiling. The flames reached the roof, which eventually collapsed in 4 Division.
The riot lasted into the next day, when the hostages were released after 18 hours. Whilst there were some serious injuries, no one was killed. The estimated damage bill to the Prison was between $1.5 and $2 million. The instigators of the riot were separated from the prison population in the newly established Special Handling Unit.
Two weeks later, prisoners at Fremantle went on hunger strike, calling for a public inquiry into the conditions at the Prison and to protest the withdrawal of their privileges. An inquiry was held in February and was highly critical of the Prison’s outdated facilities. The government began plans for a new prison, and Fremantle finally closed in November 1991, 80 years after its closure was recommended in the 1911 Royal Commission. It was superseded by the new maximum-security prison at Casuarina.