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Victoria Gaol was built in 1841 and situated in the centre of Victoria City overlooking the harbour. The earliest Victoria Gaol was used as a holding area for debtors, prisoners awaiting trial or pending for transportation. When transportation ceased to take place in Hong Kong, gaol population grew in proportion to the growth of the general population in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong as a British Colony followed the Colonial Office’s advice in the management of the prison and prisoners had to be separated according to their sex, age, offences, length and types of punishment. This had created constant problems in accommodation as a result of insufficient space and alternation works had to be carried out at Victoria Gaol on various periods to cope with the overcrowding situation as indicated in the attached plans of the Gaol.

During the very early years, Victoria Gaol was operated under the Chief Magistrate of the Police until 1858 when the Police appointed the ‘Governor of the Gaol’ to direct the operation of the prison. From 1863 onwards, the head of the Gaol was called the ‘Superintendent of Victoria Gaol’ and this post was appointed directly from England. The Superintendent in 1863 had to oversee prisoners accommodated in the Prison Hulk building the new prison at Stonecutter Islands until the project was aborted in 1866.

On 31 December 1920, the Prison Department was formally created with the duties of managing prison and prisoners removed completely from the Police. The Superintendent of Victoria Gaol became the head of the Prison Department. From 1938 onwards, the post title was changed to that of the Commissioner of Prisons.

After the opening of the Hong Kong Prison (Stanley Prison as it is called now) in 1937, Victoria Prison was closed down on 26 September 1937 after its prisoners were transferred to Stanley. Owing to the overcrowding in the Hong Kong Prison, a section of Victoria Gaol was re-opened on 16 October 1939 for holding remand prisoners and the prison was renamed as Victoria Remand Prison.

Victoria Remand Prison was vacated by the Prisons Department at the onset of the Second World War in 1941 and parts of the prison were severely damaged during the period of Japanese occupation. After the War, part of the damaged Victoria Remand Prison was repaired and put back into use in July 1946. Other rebuilding works were carried out by phases to allow the prison to function fully.

Victoria Remand Prison was renamed Victoria Reception Centre in 1965. All adult male convicted prisoners were received and classified in this Centre before their allocation to different institutions. Upon the completion of the new reception centre at Lai Chi Kok, Victoria Reception Centre was renamed as Victoria Prison on 1 December 1977 and operated as a medium security prison.

In 1982 the Prisons Department was re-named the Correctional Services Department (CSD) reflecting the changing role of the Department in providing both custodial and rehabilitative services to the offenders.

1997 marked the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as well as the closing chapter of the Vietnamese Migrants in Hong Kong. After the closing down of the last Closed Centre in 1998, all Vietnamese detainees were held in Victoria Prison pending repatriation.

To cope with the increasing female prisoner population in Hong Kong, sections of Victoria Prison were converted to accommodate adult female prisoners since January 2001. Victoria Prison’s role was unique as it served both as a prison and a detention centre for various categories of inmates of both sexes, including illegal immigrants and Vietnamese migrants awaiting repatriation, persons arrested for immigration related offences awaiting repatriation and other nationals convicted of crimes that have served their sentences and awaiting deportation.

With the CSD taking over the management of the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre in August 2005, all illegal immigrants were transferred to this new Centre. Victoria Prison once again reverted back to its original role as a prison keeping male and female sentenced prisoners.