Penal colony

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Epigraphy in honour of an Irish prisoner in the Australian penal colony of Botany Bay. Mernagh monument.JPG
Epigraphy in honour of an Irish prisoner in the Australian penal colony of Botany Bay.

A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory. Although the term can be used to refer to a correctional facility located in a remote location it is more commonly used to refer to communities of prisoners overseen by wardens or governors having absolute authority.

Contents

Historically penal colonies have often been used for penal labour in an economically underdeveloped part of a state's (usually colonial) territories, and on a far larger scale than a prison farm.

British Empire

Penal colony in the Andaman Islands (c. 1895) Andamans QE3 116.jpg
Penal colony in the Andaman Islands (c. 1895)

The British used colonial North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Merchants would transport the convicts and auction them off (for example) to plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America and the majority landed in the Chesapeake Colonies of Maryland and Virginia. Transported convicts represented perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the 18th century. [1] The colony of Georgia, for example, was first founded by James Edward Oglethorpe who originally intended to use prisoners taken largely from debtors' prison, creating a "Debtor's Colony," where the prisoners could learn trades and work off their debts. Even though this largely failed, the idea that the state began as a penal colony has persisted, both in popular history and local lore. [2] The British would often ship Irish, Scots, and the Welsh to the Americas whenever rebellions took place in Ireland, Scotland or Wales but these were sent mostly to Maryland and Virginia, not Georgia. [3]

When that avenue closed in the 1780s after the American Revolution, Britain began using parts of what is now known as Australia as penal settlements. Australian penal colonies included Norfolk Island, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Queensland and New South Wales. Advocates of Irish Home Rule or of Trade Unionism (the Tolpuddle Martyrs) sometimes received sentences of deportation to these Australian colonies.[ citation needed ]. Without the allocation of the available convict labour to farmers, to pastoral squatters, and to government projects such as roadbuilding, colonisation of Australia may not have been possible,[ citation needed ] especially considering the considerable drain on non-convict labor caused by several goldrushes that took place in the second half of the 19th century after the flow of convicts had dwindled and (in 1868) ceased.

Bermuda, off the North American continent, was also used during the Victorian period. Convicts housed in hulks were used to build the Royal Naval Dockyard there, and during the Second Boer War (1899–1902), Boer prisoners-of-war were sent to the archipelago and imprisoned on one of the smaller islands.

In colonial India, the British made various penal colonies. Two of the most infamous ones are on the Andaman Islands and Hijli. In the early days of settlement, Singapore Island was the recipient of Indian convicts, who were tasked with clearing the jungles for settlement and early public works.[ citation needed ]

France

France sent criminals to tropical penal colonies including Louisiana in the early 18th century. [4] Devil's Island in French Guiana, 1852–1939, received forgers and other criminals. New Caledonia and its Isle of Pines in Melanesia (in the South Sea) received transported dissidents like the Communards, Kabyles rebels as well as convicted criminals between the 1860s and 1897.

Elsewhere

In fiction

The concept of remote and inhospitable prison planets has been employed by science fiction writers. Some examples include:

See also

Notes and references

  1. Ekirch, A. Roger (1987), Bound For America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718–1775, Oxford University Press.
  2. Butler, James Davie (October 1896), "British Convicts Shipped to American Colonies", American Historical Review 2, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
  3. Newman, Harry Wright (1984). To Maryland From Overseas. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co. p. 1. ISBN   0806311096.
  4. Taylor, Alan. American Colonies. Penguin: London(2001).
  5. For example: Feig, Konnilyn G. (1981). Hitler's Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness (reissue ed.). Holmes & Meier Publishers. p. 296. ISBN   9780841906761 . Retrieved 2015-06-29. [...] a forced-labor camp [...] named Arbeitslager Treblinka I [...] an order exists, dated November 15, 1941, establishing that penal colony.
  6. Jager, Sheila Miyoshi (2013). Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea. Profile Books. p. 458. ISBN   9781847652027 . Retrieved 2015-06-29. Prison labor camps, or kwalliso, were first established in North Korea after liberation from Japan to imprison enemies of the revolution, landowners, collaborators, and religious leaders. After the war, these places housed un-repatriated South Korean prisoners of war. [...] There are six such camps in existence today, according to a May 2011 Amnesty International report, 'huge areas of land and located in vast wilderness sites in South Pyong'an, South Hamyong and North Hamyong Provinces.' ... Perhaps the most notorious penal colony is kwalliso no. 15. or Yodok [...].
  7. Stewart, John (2006). African States and Rulers (3 ed.). McFarland & Company. p. 96. ISBN   9780786425624 . Retrieved 2015-06-29. From 1879 the Spanish basically used Fernando Po as a penal colony for captured Cuban rebels.
  8. Gates, David (1986). The Spanish Ulcer: A History of the Peninsular War. W W Norton & Co. ISBN   0-393-02281-1.