My Time in Prison
George Cardinal Pell, First Things, August 2020
There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.
I was in solitary confinement for thirteen months, ten at the Melbourne Assessment Prison and three at Barwon Prison. In Melbourne the prison uniform was a green tracksuit, but in Barwon I was issued the bright red colors of a cardinal. I had been convicted in December 2018 of historical sexual offenses against children, despite my innocence, and despite the incoherence of the Crown Prosecutor’s case against me. Eventually (in April of this year) the High Court of Australia was to quash my convictions in a unanimous ruling. In the meantime, I began to serve my sentence of six years.
In Melbourne, I lived in Cell 11, Unit 8, on the fifth floor. My cell was seven or eight meters long and about two meters wide, just enough for my bed, which had a firm base, a not-too-thick mattress, and two blankets. On the left as you entered were low shelves with a kettle, television, and eating space. Across the narrow aisle was a basin with hot and cold water and a shower recess with good hot water. Unlike in many posh hotels, an efficient reading lamp was in the wall above the bed. Since both my knees had been replaced a couple of months before entering prison, I used a walking stick initially and was given a higher hospital chair, which was a blessing. Health regulations require each prisoner to have an hour outside each day, and so I was allowed to take two half-hours in Melbourne. Nowhere in Unit 8 was there clear glass, so I could recognize day from night, but not much more, from my cell. I never saw the eleven other prisoners.