Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Allan L. Patenaude
Prison ships are decommissioned ships (usually warships or barges) that have been refitted to accommodate inmates serving a period of incarceration. The ships may be moored offshore and/or adjacent to a land-based prison or military establishment. Although convicted felons had been sentenced to penal servitude aboard the galley ships of most Mediterranean nations from antiquity through to the 17th century, the use of ships as places of confinement did not commence until the mid-18th century in England. Collectively, prison ships became known as “prison hulks” or “the hulks” during the 18th century. From their inception in the 1750s to their general demise in 1859, these ships tended to be rat infested, with disease-ridden conditions and brutal practices. The early prison hulk was a product of three factors: (1) the various wars that England fought against her European neighbors, notably France during the 18th century; (2) the American Revolution; and (3) ...