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A Convict free State

The Industrial Revolution in England resulted in large numbers of people unemployed and living in poverty. This in turn led to a huge increase in the crime rate as people became more desperate to survive.
In the late 1700s there were more than two hundred crimes in England carrying the death penalty. Overcrowding in prisons became such a problem that the government had to use left over hulks from the Napoleonic War as floating prisons.
A number of these hulks were placed on the River Thames but others were anchored in Portsmouth and Plymouth harbours. In total, the government used nine different vessels.
When these became overcrowded, Government officials saw transportation as the answer to the problem.
Someone convicted of a capital punishment and whose death sentence was commuted would usually receive fourteen years transportation. Those convicted of a non-capital offence were usually sentenced to seven years. Initially, convicts were transported to America or the West Indies, but as a result of the American Revolution, an alternative destination was necessary.

South Australia was ultimately established through private enterprise by the South Australian Company and was the only state not to receive convicts.


 

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  • This page was last modified on 1 October 2010, at 20:04.
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