Now his appeal has been denied, George Pell is likely to join at least seven other current and former Catholic clerics who have been locked up in Ararat for sex crimes against children.
Five of those seven priests and brothers already imprisoned at the Hopkins Correctional Centre, 200 kilometres west of Melbourne, worked in the Ballarat archdiocese and would be known to Australia’s most senior cleric, who has been in custody since February.
Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne and senior Vatican figure, is likely to spend three years in prison after his conviction for abusing two choirboys in the 1990s was this week upheld in a 2-1 decision on appeal to Victoria's highest court. His legal team is believed to be preparing to seek leave to appeal that decision in the High Court.
Sources say that Pell is likely to be transferred to the Hopkins centre, a medium security facility whose 762 inmates are overwhelmingly sex offenders and others, including corrupt police, who have to be isolated from the general prison population.
Most notable among those imprisoned at the Hopkins centre is paedophile ex-priest Gerald Ridsdale – Pell’s former housemate at Ballarat’s St Alipius presbytery in the 1970s.
The shadow of Ridsdale has dogged Pell since he was photographed accompanying the former cleric to court when he was first tried for sexually abusing children during the 1990s.
Pell was raised in the goldrush city of Ballarat, and started his career in the vast Ballarat archdiocese, which covers western and central Victoria, from Portland in the state's south-west to Mildura in the north.
During hearings on cases of child sexual abuse by clergy in Ballarat, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse heard that Ridsdale had raped a girl at the St Alipius presbytery between 1972 and 1973 while another priest was present.
Despite persistent questioning over several days, Ridsdale said he was unable to remember who that priest was, or who his housemates were at the presbytery at that time. Church records showed that Ridsdale had lived at the presbytery in 1973 with Pell and another priest.
Another inmate at Ararat has, along with Ridsdale, been convicted of the abuse of former pupils at St Alipius Primary School in Ballarat.
Robert Charles Best, 76, abused more than 30 children between 1968 and 1988 at schools in Ballarat, Box Hill, Moonee Ponds and Geelong.
He was jailed in 2011 for at least 11 years for abusing 11 boys, then faced court again in 2017 for further offences, at which point a judge ordered him to serve 16½ years in prison, dated from March 2010 (when he was first taken into custody) before he could be eligible for parole.
According to evidence the order gave to the royal commission, the Christian Brothers spent more than $1.5 million on his legal defence. As of 2018, Best is no longer a member of the order.
Edward "Teddy" Dowlan – also jailed for abusing children while teaching at St Alipius in the 1970s alongside Best and Ridsdale, as well as for similar offences at schools in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool – remains in custody, but not at Ararat. Dowlan changed his name to Ted Bales after he was first convicted.
Defrocked priests Robert Claffey and Paul David Ryan, and Christian Brother John Laidlaw, who is also still a member of the order, were each convicted on the same day in July of child sexual abuse, including in the regional cities of Ballarat and Warrnambool. All three are being held at Ararat.
Other ex-clergy incarcerated at the Hopkins centre include defrocked priest David Edwin Rapson, who raped and indecently assaulted students between the mid-1970s and 1990, including at Rupertswood in Sunbury.
Former student priest Paul Pavlou, jailed in March for raping his dying friend’s 12-year-old son in 2003-04, is also held there.
Religious ministry is likely to be offered to Pell in prison, by members of the prison's pastoral care and chaplaincy team.
In September, the Ballarat Archdiocese posted an advertisement on its website for a part-time pastoral care worker in Ararat, employed by the agency Catholic Care, at Hopkins Correctional Centre.
"We are currently seeking a pastoral care practitioner to be an integral part of the chaplaincy and pastoral care team contributing to high-quality pastoral care practice for prisoners, to prisoners’ families to ex-prisoners and to staff within the prison," the advertisement reads.
"The incumbent will be required to respond effectively to the diverse spiritual and religious needs of prisoners, the prisoner’s families, to ex-prisoners and staff, particularly during times of parole hearings and the accompanying emotional challenges that come with this."
As a high-profile figure and child-sex offender, Pell is at serious risk of violence from other inmates because in the prison hierarchy, paedophiles are regarded as “the lowest of the low” and are routinely threatened with beatings and stabbings.
Pell is being held in a high-security protection unit in the Melbourne Assessment Prison where, for his own safety, he is required to spend 23 hours a day in his cell.
Another potential destination for Pell is Langi Kal Kal Prison, a minimum security unit of 428 prisoners situated halfway between Ballarat and Ararat where protection prisoners are also held. Both Hopkins and Langi Kal Kal are equipped to deal with older prisoners with health issues, as well as segregating them from other prisoners.
A former member of the clergy who was held at Langi Kal Kal said he was among the general prison populace for some of his time there, then in a house shared with five other inmates.
"You go in, you start off in cubicles, which are you to 40 people at least. They see how people fit in, then put them in medium-sized houses, in groups of six ... If they do something wrong they go back to the general populace."
He said he had no more protection than any other prisoner while there and felt many assaults there were not reported due to fears of reprisal.
"I had the same fears for my safety as anybody else," he said.
"The more people you spoke to, you realise how unsafe it was. A lot of things are not reported, people put up with bashings. You wouldn't dob anyone in."
But he said he thought Pell, who he met in passing decades ago, would be "fine there, if he doesn’t become depressed and mixes in".
"The first couple of weeks [other inmates] pick on you, they get stuck into you. I befriended people who were bigger than me..."
He said he thought Pell had probably been through the worst of the process – being held on remand, and not knowing where you would be imprisoned and for how long.