Australia’s Most Murderous Prison by James Phelps

Australia’s Most Murderous Prison by James PhelpsAustralia's Most Murderous Prison: Behind the Walls of Goulburn Jail by James Phelps
Published by Random House Australia on July 16th 2015
Genres: True Crime
Pages: 336

An unprecedented spate of murders in the 1990s - seven in just three years - earned Goulburn Jail the ominous name of 'The Killing Fields'. Inmates who were sentenced or transferred to the 130-year-old towering sandstone menace declared they had been given a death sentence.

Few of us have a particularly good idea about what goes on behind the walls of the average prison – and most of us would like to keep it that way. In Australia’s Most Murderous Prison, James Phelps takes the reader behind the walls of Goulburn Jail, through the eyes of the officers who stand guard over some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals.

To the average reader, particularly those outside New South Wales, the name Goulburn Jail might not mean much, and there is always the danger that using hyperbolic terms in book titles could backfire. Once you dig into the meat of this book however, you will discover the names – and personalities – of some of the criminals who have littered the headlines of Australian newspapers for the last 30 years. From Ivan Milat to Bilal Skaf, and Australia’s very own homegrown terrorists, many of them are locked up in the Supermax unit of Goulburn Jail.

Phelps doesn’t shy away from telling the gritty and disgusting stories of the things that go on behind prison walls. On occasion he gives warnings of extreme content ahead, but after reading everything that has gone before, one tends to get a little numb to some of the worst things inside. There are plenty of examples of nasty people meeting bloody, nasty ends inside, and while it is difficult to feel sorry for many of the inmates, there are definitely some tragic cases. The author definitely takes a sympathetic stance towards the subjects of the book, which surprisingly enough are the guards, rather than prisoners themselves. But one can hardly blame him for not wanting to glorifying the indefensible.

I think this will definitely appeal to fans of true crime, and learning more about some of the escapades, escapes and capers that go on behind the razor wire of prison. It is not for the faint of heart, however, but I think it has an honesty about it that makes it eminently readable.

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

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