The ‘Save Fairlea’ Vigil: Abolitionist Imaginings and Unexpected Outcomes

  • Bree Carlton
  • Emma K. Russell


This chapter examines the establishment, duration and end of the ‘Save Fairlea’ vigil. The vigil maintained a continuous and visible activist presence outside Fairlea Women’s Prison for five months during the latter half of 1993. It came to serve as a campaign headquarters in the fight against Fairlea’s closure, which would see women, once again, transferred en masse to a high-security men’s prison. The Save Fairlea vigil monitored the prison’s activities, especially prisoner transfers, subjecting official movements in and out of the prison to increased public scrutiny and activist interventions. The vigil demonstrates that sustained protest at the prison gates can open up possibilities for an abolitionist imagination, as activists’ conversations at the camp and reflections on ‘bearing witness’ to the prison and its mundane routines sparked aspirational ideas and visions for a world without prisons. The daily life of the vigil and the broader campaign to ‘save Fairlea’ are captured in the collective diaries, which now serve as an invaluable archival resource, shedding light on the debates, practicalities and critical self-reflections that shaped this era of the movement. The vigil concluded in December 1993, when the state government announced that Fairlea would remain open, but only until construction of a new private women’s prison was completed.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminology, School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, School of Humanities and Social SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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