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How Brutal Were The British Prison Colonies?

Penal Colony Punishments, Australia:
18th through the 19th Century During the late 18th century and the mid 19th century, British criminals were transported to various penal colonies in Australia. Discipline was harshly enforced by the military guards for convicts who are lazy or unruly at their jobs. Let’s look at some of the punishments used on convicts: Solitary Confinement For committing minor crimes such as being disrespectful to authorities a convict would be placed in solitary confinement in dark dumb cells. They would be placed in a small cell that was pitch-black because there were no windows to let light in. Sitting in absolute silence for weeks and fed minimal rations of bread and water, it was believed that this would give convicts time to reflect on their behavior and rehabilitate. Leg Irons Penal colonies had no restrictive walls in the early years, but only the most brave or foolish of convicts would attempt to escape. They would encounter the bush a wilderness they could not survive. And if they did try to escape they would be tracked by the Aboriginal tribesman working willingly or unwillingly for the penal colony After several escape attempts, heavy shackles were introduced to prevent runaways They were placed around the ankles of the convict, and sometimes they were connected in a gang as they did hard labor, such as building roads, bridges, courthouses, hospitals, or working on government farms. Leg irons were extremely heavy and uncomfortable to wear, rubbing against the ankles and were left on for months as the convict worked. Convicts placed leather between the leg iron and their ankles, if they could find it, to stop the excruciating pain. There was no key to release them, either. When they were fastened to the ankle, a rivet was placed in the lock and heated up. The only way to take them off was for the blacksmith to hammer the rivet out. The Treadmill First introduced at Carter’s Barracks, Sydney, in 1823 to punish insolence, the treadmill would see the convict walk on a revolving set of steps that turned a wheel. They would walk for 40 minutes, with 20 minutes rest, and could be flogged if the didn’t keep up the pace. The dust created from the treadmill irritated their eyes and lungs, and if they slipped, their legs might be shredded by the blades below. The treadmill would power a mill, which would grind grain into flour, therefore, having the added productive element to the punishment. It would produce food for the convicts and for sale to the public. Flogging Prisoners who were lazy disobeyed orders or did not do their work at all would be flogged this brutal punishment involved a cat-o’-nine-tails, which had lead attached to each strand, which was used to whip the convicts back. The flogging would be done publicly outside as a warning to others. Flogging itself would be done by a strong convict, called scourgers, with a drummer keeping the pace. Scourgers were paid three shillings and sixpence per day by the government and were naturally unpopular with the other convicts. They slept in their own part of the barracks away from others. A doctor would also be present because of how deadly flogging was after a couple of lashes the skin would break. 50 lashes could turn them into a bloody mess. It could go up to 100 lashes, which could kill the convict. Another downside of flogging was that it could incapacitate the convict, making it difficult to work. This sometimes caused them to be flogged again for the same crime. The superintendent could not order this punishment. Instead, it had to be approved by the magistrate of the court or by the governor. Female Punishments For women, punishment for drunkenness or theft would see them sent to the factories where they could be made to work for years manufacturing clothes and washing them. In the factory being disrespectful would see them having their head shaved or placed in solitary confinement. Outside of the factories, the authorities felt free to use the same punishments that men received. Sometimes the punishments, which were excessive for the crimes committed, had the effect of changing the morality of the convict. Other times, the punishment, such as flogging, had the opposite effect because the convict desired revenge or the punishment made them less productive because of the severeness of the punishment. Subscribe for more history and don’t forget to click the bell button to get a notification of when there is a new episode.
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HmERWNR7fk

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