Did You Know? (Penal Colony Edition)

That penal comes from the Latin word for pain?

Poenalis means pain or penalty in Latin. The use of the word to mean “appointed as a place of punishment” began in the mid-19th century according to The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories.

Turns out, there were penal colonies all over the world. Frequently the prisoner’s family was sent with them. It wasn’t like a prison term: serving your time and going home. Being sent to a penal colony typically meant being sent away for the rest of your life. It didn’t matter how petty or serious the crime happened to be. Many prisoners were sent away due to their political views.

Australia is one of the best known former penal colonies. A Commonwealth of Thieves: the Improbable Birth of Australia by historian/novelist Thomas Keneally talks about the beginnings of the penal colonies in Australia. This book is based on the personal journals and documents of those involved. England shipped their ‘criminals’ there, and just like that, England was rid of their ‘problems!’ The thousands of convicts’ journeys were just the beginning of their ordeal though, as they started new lives in this unknown land.

The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars by Daniel Beer is a story of the Tsars and how they exiled prisoners to the Ural mountains of Siberia. It is also the tale of how these exiled unruly criminals became revolutionaries who would one day rule the Soviet Union.

Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan is a fictional story about William Buelow Gould being sentenced to life imprisonment at the Sarah Island penal colony in what is now Tasmania. William is a talented art forger and he begins painting pictures of fish to help the prison doctor get into The Royal Society. But the tales are as much about life on the island as they are about his art and the fish.

It can be devastating for a family that is left behind when a member of that family is in prison. The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins is a very useful book for young children with a parent in jail. They need to be reassured that it is not their fault and their parent still loves them. 65% of men in prisons are fathers and 75% of incarcerated women are mothers.

All of these penal colonies and jails are meant to punish. We know that positive discipline and boundaries are a much more desirable way to reap good behavior. Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World by Jill Rigby is full of wonderful anecdotes/scenarios demonstrating healthy ways to deal with tough situations when raising a child. Here at the library we have a wide array of parenting books to help you if you have specific discipline issues that you need to deal with. Hopefully, none of us will have to worry about our loved ones being put in jail!

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