Penal colonies

A penal colony is a settlement used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general populace 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.

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. In practice such penal colonies may be little more than slave communities. The British, French, and other colonial empires heavily used North America and other parts of the world as penal colonies to varying degrees, sometimes under the guise of indentured servitude or similar arrangements.

British Empire

Further information: Convicts in Australia

The British used colonial North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Merchants would transport the convicts and auctioned them off to (for example) plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America, representing perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the 18th century.[1] The British also would often ship Irish and Scots to the Americas whenever rebellions took place in Ireland or Scotland, and they would be treated similar to the convicts, except that this also included women and children.

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 Dieman'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.. Without the allocation of the available convict labor to farmers, to pastoral squatters, and to Government projects such as roadbuilding, colonisation of Australia would not have been possible, 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 was the recipient of Indian convicts, who were tasked with clearing the jungles for settlement and early public works.

Elsewhere

  • During the Argentine rule of the Falkland Islands, Major Esteban Mestivier was commissioned by the Buenos Aires government, as the new governor of the islands, to set up a penal colony. He arrived at his destination on November 15, 1832; but his soldiers mutinied and killed him. Lt. Col. José María Pinedo quelled the rebellion and took charge as governor. Argentina's southermost city, Ushuaia, was founded as a penal colony.
  • In Paraguay the first ruler and supreme dictator Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia opened the penal colony of Tevego in 1813, where mostly petty criminals were sent. It was abandoned in 1823, but re-established in 1843 as San Salvador. It was evacuated near to the end of the Paraguayan War and soon after destroyed by Brazilian troops.
  • The Netherlands had a penal colony since the late 19th century. A town called Veenhuizen, originally set up by a private company to "re-educate" vagrants from the large cities in the west like Amsterdam, was taken over by the Department of Justice to be turned into a collection of prison buildings. The town is located in the least populated province of Drenthe in the north of the country, isolated in the middle of a vast area of peat and marshland.
  • Currently in Mexico, the island of Isla María Madre (in the Marías Islands) is used as a penal colony. With a small population (fewer than 1200), the colony is governed by a state official who is both the governor of the islands and chief judge. The military command is independent of the government and is exercised by an officer of the Mexican Navy. The other islands are uninhabited.
  • Tarrafal was a Portuguese penal colony in the Cape Verde Islands, set up by the head of the Portuguese government, Salazar, before WWII (1936) where anti-fascist opponents of this right-wing regime were sent. At least 32 Anarchists, Communists and other opponents of Salazar's regime died in that camp. The camp was closed in 1954 but was re-opened in the 1970s to jail African leaders fighting Portuguese colonialism.
  • Gorgona Island in Colombia housed a state high security prison from the 1950s. Convicts were dissuaded from escaping by the poisonous snakes in the interior of the island and the sharks patrolling the 30 km to the mainland. The penal colony was closed in 1984 and the last prisoners were transferred to the mainland. Most of the former jail buildings are now covered by dense vegetation, but some remain visible.
  • The Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been used by the United States as a penal colony to maintain and interrogate prisoners purportedly outside US legal jurisdiction.

Non-fiction

Charrière's account aroused considerable controversy. French authorities disputed it and released penal colony records that contradicted his account. Charrière had never been imprisoned on Devil's Island. He had escaped from a mainland prison. French journalists or prison authorities disputed other elements of his book, and said that he had invented many incidents or appropriated experiences of other prisoners.[3] Critics said he should have admitted his book was fiction.[4]

In fiction

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

Notes and references

Criminal justice portal
  • Diiulio, John J., ISBN 0-02-907883-0
  • Dupont, Jerry, "The Common Law Abroad: Constitutional and Legal Legacy of the British Empire", Wm. S. Hein Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-8377-3125-9, ISBN 978-0-8377-3125-4
  • Johnsen, Thomas C., Harvard Magazine, September–October 1999, p. 54.
  • Serrill, M. S., "Norfolk - A Retrospective - New Debate Over a Famous Prison Experiment," Corrections Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1982), pp. 25–32.
  • Mun Cheong Yong, V. V. Bhanoji Rao, "Singapore-India Relations: A Primer", Study Group on Singapore-India Relations, National University of Singapore Centre for Advanced Studies Contributor Mun Cheong Yong, V. V. Bhanoji Rao, Yong Mun Cheong, Published by NUS Press, 1995. ISBN 9971-69-195-7, ISBN 978-9971-69-195-0

Template:Incarcerationru:Каторга

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.