Prison graffiti: A historical analysis of life in Boggo Road Gaol

B. Mulcahy1*, M. Bull1, K. Smith1

1 School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University

*corresponding author:

Graffiti is an unmediated source of data that allows the independent expression of its creators to be observed. Very little research has systematically analysed prison graffiti. No. 2 Division of Boggo Road Gaol, Queensland provides a valuable case study site for an analysis of prison graffiti. The prison was decommissioned in 1989, and graffiti created by individuals formerly incarcerated at the site remains on the cell walls. We use a visual ethnographic methodology to consider the historical, social and political context in which the images were created. While the graffiti was at the center of our analysis, we also drew on additional data sources including government reports, media and biographical narratives. This process of triangulation allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of the images under study. Our historically, politically and socially situated thematic analysis of the graffiti provided insight into the lived experiences of individuals who had been incarcerated at Boggo Road Gaol, and challenged some accepted assumptions about the relationship between life inside and outside a high security prison.


Belinda Mulcahy is a PhD candidate at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University. Belinda attained a double degree in Psychological Science and Criminology and Criminal Justice from Griffith University, and was awarded First Class Honours for her dissertation on the utility of visual ethnographic methods in the study of prison graffiti. Belinda has experience in qualitative methodology, in particular visual ethnography. Her current PhD applies visual ethnographic methodology to the study of prison graffiti at Boggo Road Gaol in order to assess the lived experiences of individuals formerly incarcerated in the prison.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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