A penal colony or exile 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.
With the passage of the Transportation Act 1717, the British government initiated the penal transportation of indentured servants to Britain's colonies in the Americas. British merchants would be in charge of transporting the convicts across the Atlantic, where in the colonies their indentures would be auctioned off to planters. Many of the indentured servants were sentenced to seven year terms, which gave rise to the colloquial term "His Majesty's Seven-Year Passengers". It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to the Americas this way, and the majority landed in the Chesapeake Colonies of Maryland and Virginia. Transported convicts represented perhaps one-quarter of Britons that left the country during the 18th century. The colony of Georgia, for example, was first founded by James Edward Oglethorpe who originally intended to use prisoners taken largely from debtors' prisons, 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 was founded as a penal colony has persisted, both in popular history and local folklore.
When that avenue closed after the outbreak of American Revolutionary War in 1776, British prisons started to become overcrowded. Since immediate stopgap measures proved themselves ineffective, in 1785 Britain decided to use parts of what is now known as Australia as penal settlements. Leaving Portsmouth, England on 13 May 1787, the First Fleet transported the first ~800 convicts and ~250 marines to Botany Bay. Australian penal colonies in late 18th century included Norfolk Island and New South Wales, and in early 19th century also Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and Moreton Bay (Queensland).
Advocates of Irish Home Rule or trade unionism (the Tolpuddle Martyrs) sometimes received sentences of deportation to the Australian colonies. 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, especially considering the considerable drain on non-convict labor caused by several gold rushes 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 British India, the colonial government established various penal colonies. Two of the largest ones were 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.
France sent criminals to tropical penal colonies including Louisiana in the early 18th century. 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.
[...] a forced-labor camp [...] named Arbeitslager Treblinka I [...] an order exists, dated 15 November 1941, establishing that penal colony.
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 [...].
From 1879 the Spanish basically used Fernando Po as a penal colony for captured Cuban rebels.