In the early years of British colonisation jails were run by gaolers (jailers), who answered to sheriffs (legal officials appointed by the governor). This letter from Sheriff Percival Berry of Auckland to Governor Robert FitzRoy on 20 March 1844 shows that hard-labour prisoners were being employed on public works in Auckland in the 1840s. The request that the prisoners be put to work to make the debtors' prison secure illustrates how easy it was to escape from the ramshackle early New Zealand prisons. The alternative spellings of jail and gaol were used in official records and newspapers during the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: ACGO 8333 IA 1/30 1844/704
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