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Penal Colony

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Convicts going to bathe, Mazaruni, Illustrated London News, 1888

"Now the jury found me guilty,
then says the judge, says he,
Oh for life, Jim Jones,
I'm sending you across the stormy sea."
— "Jim Jones", traditional

What to do with criminals is a problem for societies real and fictional. One common solution in times past and perhaps future is the Penal Colony. This is a self-contained society consisting mostly of prisoners and those who guard them, usually separated from the civilized world by natural barriers in addition to (or instead of) prison walls; this can often be a remote island far out in the ocean, or some piece of land in the middle of nowhere, but in science fiction it may be a whole Prison Planet whose Hat is an orange jumpsuit.

Typically the prisoners will be required to do some sort of hard and dangerous labor; mining is a favorite in science fiction. If the colony is isolated, loosely controlled, or has no guards at all (often the case with a Deadly Environment Prison, where the surrounding locale is a Death World that naturally deters escape attempts), it will resemble a Wretched Hive with the prisoners more or less running the place themselves.

The Penal Colony can be a rich source of story ideas; if you're recruiting for a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, you might do it here. If a Rebel Leader is captured by The Empire and sent here they may have to fight their way to the top of the prison hierarchy, then arrange an escape. Need a source of people you can dispose of without anyone caring? Have your Xenomorph invade the Penal Colony. Is the place too loosely supervised? If so, it may become a base of operations for a crime lord.

These jails are often a type of Hellhole Prison. Particularly inescapable ones can overlap with The Alcatraz and Phantom Zone. Often related to Settling the Frontier. See also Reassigned to Antarctica. The Super-Trope to Sentenced to Down Under, which is specifically the old British practice of sending their convicts to Australia between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Cross Ange, people who cannot use mana, Norma, are sent to Arzenal, a penal military base, where they are forced to fight DRAGONs invading from a different dimension.
  • The eponymous Deadman Wonderland is a combination penal colony and amusement park where prisoners work off their sentences by maintaining the park and entertaining visitors.
  • The Excel♡Saga manga had one that Excel and Elgala were shipped off to. An island for women prisoners where they'd lose out to their feral instincts in a savage world with no hope of escape, and probably some sexual harassment. Excel and Elgala escaped during the boat ride there, although they got attacked by sharks and whirlpools in the process.
  • In GUN×SWORD, Endless Illusion was originally a prison world. The Original Seven were used by the heads of security, and the Claw was once one of those in charge. He's also the last person who remembers the details.
  • Guy: Double Target has Heel as the warden of the Prison Planet Geo in which women are used as sex slaves for male prisoners as a reward.
  • Chimera in Jyu-Oh-Sei is a prison planet, or at least that's what the powers that be want people to believe. In actuality, it's a testing ground for breeding a new variety of humans hardy enough to survive in that star system.
  • Lutecia gets sent to a prison planet after the events of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Though it's a very nice prison planet (the Takamachi family takes a vacation there in ViVid), which led to this exchange between her and a visiting Agito in StrikerS Sound Stage X.
    Agito: You know, this place is really great.
    Lutecia: You mean you can't see that it's a criminal deportation world?
    Agito: That's not what I mean. It's not a penal colony. It's a world that people are currently adapting and developing.
  • One of these exists at the beginning of the Filler arc in Naruto. The corrupt teacher from waaaay back at the start of the series is there, and he's been experimenting with spells that could best be described as the wizarding-ninja equivalent of steroids. He gets out, and Naruto and the other Leaf Ninja have to stop him.
  • Hecatonchires in Outlaw Star
  • Sailor Moon: In the distant future, Neo Queen Serenity banished several criminals to the planet Nemesis. Later, their descendants formed the Black Moon Clan and sought revenge.

    Comic Books 
  • Takron-Galtos, the Legion of Super-Heroes' favorite dumping ground for cosmic baddies.
  • The British 1980's science fiction comic Starblazer had a number of these.
    • Issue 7 "Holocaust Hogan". Zeta-9 was the main colony in use by Earth forces. It held a large number of hardened criminals and was protected by a detachment of guard ships.
    • Issue 52 "The Mask of Fear". Milo's World had a moon called the Alpha Moon Death colony, which was used to exile political prisoners who harvested radioactive ore under horrendous working conditions.
    • Issue 57 "Galactic Lawman". The planet Mynos has a penal colony made up of prisoners from the planet Tara. The criminals are forced to perform hard labor and are brutally treated by the guards.
    • Issue 61 "Escape from Devil's Moon". The planet Catraz (AKA Devil's Moon) has a human penal colony with harsh working conditions. Catraz has no atmosphere and the colony is next to a nuclear waste dump.
    • Issue 100 "Pirates of the Ether Sea)". The planet Pavo's polar regions house a penal colony for the dictator's political enemies.
    • Issue 110 "The Tomb of Tara". The penal asteroid Gog is subject to blistering heat from a nearby sun which that quickly kills the convicts performing hard labor there.
    • Issue 208 "Planet of the Dead". The planet Devil's Island's population is made up of criminals. It's monitored by a law enforcement battle station in orbit but the prisoners are mostly left to their own devices.
    • Issue 221 "Beastworld". Tannadize 4 is very similar to Devil's Island above: the prisoners are left unsupervised but are watched by an orbital police post on one of the world's three moons.
  • The Incal has one on water, and it's seemingly without any land or infrastructure, leaving one to wonder how prisoners are supposed to survive on it at all. Though in fairness it turns out to be a cover for a secret base.
  • Bitch Planet is set on a prison planet for women.
  • The Mines of Titan and the various Cursed Earth work farms in Judge Dredd that are used for various offenders.
  • Kaijumax is set in a prison for giant movie monsters, which is open-air by necessity given the size of the inmates. In practice, it closely resembles an ordinary supermax in terms of culture, including gangs separated along racial lines (aliens, cryptids, robots, etc)
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, the Evronian Empire maintains one on the artificial planetoid the prisoners have nicknamed "The Well", as anyone sent there cannot escape but could be pulled out if the Evronians decide they have some job for them, with the reason the Evronians don't just kill said prisoners is exactly that they think they may find them useful some day. Most of the inmates are just left around, as the only way out is the heavily fortified spaceport (and any attempt to try and infiltrate it, or to capture one of the vehicles moving between the spaceport and the other installations, is met with overwhelming strength), but a few are kept in high-security cells made specifically for them. Notable inmates include Klangor, an Evronian cyborg who has more than enough firepower to overwhelm the garrison by himself if the guards didn't have his remote control, and Trauma, a rogue artificially-mutated Evronian general with immense psychic powers that have increased ever since he was put in a psychic-suppressing cell made for someone much stronger than him.
  • Alphatraz is a prison planet in Planet Terry where nobody escapes...because the prisoners are in charge of it and have turned it into a luxury prison.
  • In Serenity: Leaves on the Wind Zoe is sent to a prison camp on a desert planet where the terraforming didn't take. The camp doesn't need walls—anybody who runs away will die in the desert—and the guards are purely symbolic and don't bother intervening in inmate brawls. Of course they weren’t counting on Mal and company pulling a Big Damn Heroes to rescue her…
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) has the Devil's Gulag, a prison built on top of a mountain top. However, two breakouts have led to the prison being abandoned.
  • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: Aphra is sent to one, Accresker Prison, during the "Catastrophe Con" arc. It's a series of ship hulks held together magnetically and towed around by a Star Destroyer, with the prisoners press-ganged as soldiers whenever a new ship is boarded, forced to fight otherwise their Explosive Leashes detonate.
  • The Phantom Zone from Superman is another prison dimension.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Empire enslaves trespassers into their empire and takes the humanoid women to penal planets to mine in horrid conditions intended to lead to their early deaths since women are illegal within the empire, partially due to the government wanting to control the population size.

  • The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum reveals that the TCB!Crystal Empire was converted into one of these. It's an utter Hellhole Prison, and the Crystal Ponies and any other (suspected or otherwise) political dissidents dumped off there are forced to mine for crystals and other raw materials all day, all the while they're kept under complete media blackout to keep them more scared of humanity than of Queen Celestia. Much of the Shades of the Unsung side story takes place there, and it's revealed there are also some very disturbing experiments going on, and the Warden has it in for the main characters (which is not completely unjustified, as they're planning a Great Escape).
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic: Starfleet uses entire planets as prisons!
  • The Longest Road : In Chapter 29 Erika ends in prison on Orange Islands as punishment for abusing her power as gym leader.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Fiorina "Fury" 161 from Alien³, a distant planet home to a remote prison facility for hardened convicts, such as murderers and rapists. Ellen Ripley crash-lands here after the events of the previous movie, and has no choice but to cooperate for survival with the local guards and inmates, while yet another Xenomorph runs rampant through the place.
    • Though in a subversion it's a former prison colony being wound down by a skeleton crew of convicts and a couple of token wardens with no firearms—guards are unnecessary as there is nowhere to escape to.
  • Butcher Bay and Crematoria in The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Descendants, a Disney Channel Original Movie, features the Isle of the Lost, an island prison away from the nation of Auradon that houses the Disney Villains and other unnamed criminals. The main theme of the movies is regarding the children of said criminals, who are trapped on the island with poor human rights, and are shunned by the residents of Auradon, who have a Black-and-White Morality and All Crimes Are Equal mentality, and believe that evil is hereditary.
  • New York and Los Angeles from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.
  • The Girl From Monday: It's mentioned that dissidents have been sent to the moon, where tourist resorts exist now which they must work for. Cecile is sent there near the end.
  • Jet Li's The One featured a prison dimension.
  • Judge Dredd. Mega City 1's criminals were sent to Aspen Penal Colony to serve out their sentences.
  • In Australian Westerns Ned Kelly (1970), Mad Dog Morgan, The Outlaw Michael Howe, Captain Thunderbolt, and Van Diemen's Land the convicts all spend time as slave laborers.
  • In No Escape (1994), prisoners who prove too troublesome for the futuristic maximum security prison get dropped off on a small island to scratch out a living. While there are occasional supply drops of food, for the most part prisoners are left to their own devices to survive.
  • Star Trek VI had the Klingon prison planet Rura Penthe.
  • Re-Ed Camp 47 in the ozploitation film Turkey Shoot.

  • Velant/Edgeland in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga is a pocket of civilization on the rocky coast of a glaciated wasteland in the far north, populated by convicts and their guards and existing to export rubies and herring back to the Kingdom of Donderath, forty days' sail to the south. If a convict survives three years' hard labor in the ruby mines, they earn a Ticket of Leave that lets them settle in and around Bay-town and find gainful employment, but they can still never return to Donderath. The guards are worse than the inmates: it's noted that they're mainly Donderan soldiers who had the choice between Velant and the hangman, whereas the inmates are mostly petty criminals (e.g. thieves) or more rarely murderers of Asshole Victims, since the really heinous criminals are usually executed rather than transported.
  • Sheol I in The Bone Season is a penal colony established by the Rephaim to indoctrinate humans.
  • The planet Dagoola IV in The Borders of Infinity is a POW colony, from which Miles engineers a mass escape.
  • In Brave New World, many dissidents are sent to various islands (they aren't imprisoned on them though, just exiled).
  • Botany in the Catteni books. The similarities to the settlement of Australia are numerous and explicit.
  • In the Children of Steel universe, the Tri-Star corporation maintains an asteroid mine where troublesome 'morphs are incarcerated. There's an on-site bordello where those criminal morphs considered too delicate for the mines are employed, for instance Dialene after her original captain tried to play pirate.
  • This is the convenient use for the levels below the Net in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo.
  • The CoDominium universe has several, notably Haven and Tanith, but nearly every colony that isn't fortunate enough to have a nationalist patron gets convicts and dissidents "involuntary transportees" dumped on them whenever Earth feels like it.
  • Crest of the Stars: One of these crops up in Banner of the Stars II. A single continent on a planet has been terraformed and divided in three roughly equal sections for prisoners to reside with a smaller section for the guards. What to do with the place when the Abh conquer becomes a rather complicated issue and female lead Lafiel is rather unhappy to have the whole mess dumped in her lap.
  • Draconis Memoria: Scorazin, The Alcatraz of the Corvantine Empire, is a large walled-off city contaning the worst, most violent and dangerous criminals in the land. Since there is next to no direct oversight from the guards, the prison has evolved into a rather sophisticated Wretched Hive, with its own political factions, currency and even cultural tenets.
  • The Crimson Shadow: The mines near Montfort, where many dwarves have been sentenced to hard labor.
  • The Dred Chronicles are technically set on a Prison Ship, but the fact that it doesn't go anywhere and doesn't have cells (or human guards) means that it essentially functions as a prison colony in space.
  • Salusa Secundus in Dune was one of these.
    • Originally it was the imperial capital, but then a rogue house nuked it and it became a Death World on par with Arrakis.
    • Also the emperor's Sardaukar were recruited from that planet, the harsh conditions supposedly toughened them up.
  • Jack Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond series features four planets which serve as penal colonies, each with a unique cutthroat society.
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, the underground caves beneath the Wissenroot were initially used for those who wanted the next generation to know about humanity's dark past. Eventually, it became used to exile those who opposed the Ol-Zhaan, with a nasty lie to their relatives that the exile was devoured by monsters. The exiles and their descendants became the Erdlings.
  • In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Azkaban, the wizard prison, was such an example, being an island in the middle of the North Sea. As it was run by dark creatures who eventually let the prisoners escape it was a cardboard prison.
  • Hawksbill Station (The Anvil of Time in the UK), by Robert Silverberg, takes place at the eponymous penal colony somewhere on earth in the Precambrian era. There is no supervision, nor any significant life outside the oceans, just a number of male political dissidents exiled by one-way time travel.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, part of the moon was a penal colony, but the Authority running the place treated the whole thing as such.
    • In For Us The Living, offenders who refuse "treatment" (or psychological reprogramming to cure them of the desire to commit their crime again) are sent to live in Coventry - a penal colony which is basically lawless exile.
    • A detailed portrayal of "Coventry" is given in the short work of the same name.
    • The "Marsmen" of Podkayne of Mars are descended form prison colonists.
  • Camp Green Lake in Holes, which is a camp entirely surrounded by desert.
  • Honor Harrington: Echoes of Honor has the planet Hades, nicknamed "Hell" and used as a prison by the People's Republic of Haven because almost all of its native flora and fauna are inedible to humans, and the one plant that is causes brain damage, allowing the guards to place the inmates in scattered, isolated camps, and punish rebelling inmates by cutting off their food supply. When Honor ends up there, she organizes a mass breakout.
  • This is where one of Kafka's short stories ("In the Penal Colony") takes place. The focus of the story, however, is on an upcoming execution...
  • Midnight Robber: New Half-Way Tree is a world in another dimension, accessible directly from the planet Toussaint, and is where Toussaint ships all its worst criminals.
  • In Peter Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy, serious criminals were suitably equipped with survival gear, and then sent on a one-way trip to the surface of a penal planet, where they would be effectively cut off from all modern (and indeed, not so modern) benefits of human civilisation, and left to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives.
  • Papillon, a memoir written by Henri Charrière, an inmate of the French Guiana prison colony.
  • Enabled by the generally casual interstellar travel and thus seen on various occasions in the Perry Rhodan setting. How bad they get depends on the regime running them — at the benevolent end of the spectrum one might see relatively civilized involuntary exile with the inhabitants left to their own devices as long as they make no trouble, while the other extreme may be plausibly exemplified by the Empire of Tradom with its propensity for using slave labor regardless of trivialities like economic sense and at least one whole planet set aside dedicated solely to torture. (Somewhat justified in that its ultimate authorities turned out to be a small clique of quasi-immortal emotion eaters who fed on suffering.)
  • Austar IV, the setting of the Pit Dragon Chronicles, is a desert planet that was originally used as a penal colony.
  • The setting of A Planet Called Treason is a penal planet for the leaders of a rebellion and their descendants. A lack of metal keeps the inhabitants on the surface while the rest of the galaxy profits from their otherwise advanced technology which is offered up for pittances of metal.
  • "A Planet Named Shayol" by Cordwainer Smith took place on a very unusual prison planet.
  • In The Sardonyx Net, there is a prison planet called Chabad.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky, the Isles of Sorrow are a penal colony where the condemned mine iron for the rest of their lives (usually, pretty short thanks to the conditions).
  • The Silerian Trilogy: The Alizar diamond mines in Sileria. Many convicts are sentence to hard labor there, for varying terms, and many die in them due to abuse by the Valdani guards or hardships. Even many released die soon after. It's said they were once staffed by only voluntary, well-paid workers before the Valdani came. Now they're the greatest source of Valdani income in Sileria. Josarian and the rebels attack the mines to remove them from Valdani control, taking this income along with freeing the convicts. When not convicts were available, Valdani soldiers would just round up Silerians to work there too, so many are basically slaves. The waterlords flood the mines after the liberation, preventing the Valdani retaking them.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Night's Watch has devolved into this, with it consisting mostly of people who faced the option of death or going to the Wall.
  • In Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues, the protagonist Jim is sent to a prison planet to retrieve an alien artifact (actually, it's from the future). He is injected with a slow-acting poison that will kill him unless he returns with the object within 30 days.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: Discovery novel "Drastic Measures" one of Kodos the Executioner's more extreme followers was sent to the high security penal colony on Garodon V. The planet also hosted a civilian colony but the penal colony was over 1,000 kilometers from any other population centers on the planet.
    • The New Zealand penal colony was a low security facility with no walls or physical barriers present, but inmates were closely tracked via the colony computer systems and an inhibitor kept inmates from being beamed away. Guards and staff tended to be hands off with inmates who obeyed the rules. The inmates largely obeyed the rules and the enhanced detention center called "the box" could sit unused for years. The colony was often used as an incentive in plea deals as it was much more attractive to inmates than places like Elba II.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Akrit'tar was a barren, lifeless planet with an Imperial prison being the only settlement on its surface, to hold Rebel POWs and other political enemies.
    • The marvelously named planet Despayre in Death Star, the original construction site for the Death Star (and the first casualty of the Death Star superlaser). There are also others that tend to end up in this kind of role, such as the spice mines of Kessel, with a mix of both regular criminals and political prisoners (not unlike the Soviet labor camps).
    • The Courtship of Princess Leia: Dathomir was used as one first by the Old Republic, and then later the Empire. In the first case, it housed dangerous makers of war machines, along with a rogue Jedi, while the Empire held mostly engineers who had refused to work for them and were sent there as political prisoners (too useful to just kill, but not people they wanted with the Rebels either).
    • Tales of the Bounty Hunters: Jubilar is used as one by nearby star systems. As a result of their frequent wars, the convicts tend to be drafted into the different armies depending on which spaceport they arrive at.
  • Pluto is the prison planet version in the Captain Future novels by Allen Steele. The harsh conditions outside the prison (and dietary habits of the locals) deter escape, and even if you could steal a spacecraft you're out in the Kuiper Belt so where would you go?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Against the Wind: Set during Australia's colonial era over the period 1798–1812, the series follows the life of Mary Mulvane, a daughter of an Irish school master. At 18, she is transported to New South Wales for a term of seven years after attempting to take back her family's milk cow which had been seized by the British "in lieu of tithes" to the local proctor. She endures the trial of a convict sea journey to New South Wales and years of service as a convict before her emancipation and life as a free citizen.
  • American Gods (2017): "A Prayer for Mad Sweeney" highlights how the Thirteen Colonies were once used this way for convicts from Britain, with the story of Essie McGowan.
  • Andor: In "Narkina 5" Cassian is sent to the title moon, which holds many prisons built on artificial islands where prisoners are forced to labor in factories. Another destination mentioned when he's sent off is Belsavis, likely another example (as it was in the old EU).
  • Captain Dylan Hunt and Andromeda had to escape from one in the episode "A Rose in the Ashes". The planet was specifically chosen for the abundance of alkali metals in its soil, preventing the inmates from farming, forcing them to rely on the guards for food. Fortunately, alkali metals are perfect for recharging Rommie's batteries.
  • Banished is all about the original British penal colony in Australia.
  • One episode of Battlestar Galactica (1978) featured an asteroid penal colony that had gotten lost in the shuffle of the Thousand-Yahren War some generations before the start of the series. The prisoners are the descendants of the original convicts sent there, ditto for the guards. The locks on the cells haven't worked in ages; people stay where they are because of being stuck in a rut. The guards, lacking real training and conviction, would not be able to stop a prisoner from escaping if one really tried. By chance, Starbuck ends up in a cell there, and the mold is broken; he escapes easily and manages to summon the fleet to his location, and with the arrival of Commander Adama the colony is closed and the prisoners' sentences commuted.
  • Blake's 7 has the title character and several future members of the Seven sentenced to the penal planet Cygnus Alpha. The Federation just dumps prisoners on the planet to fend for themselves without resources. Things aren't too bad as the inhabitants long ago formed a Cult Colony for their mutual survival, except the leader has become Drunk with Power and so the protagonists have simply exchanged a technological dystopia for a religious one.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century had Buck visit a world which seemed at first like a charming pastoral community. Then you find out that they aren't this low-tech voluntarily...
  • Colony:
    • Anyone found guilty of crimes against the occupation are shipped off to "The Factory", which is eventually revealed to be a forced labor camp on the Moon.
    • Season 2 shows that there are other labor camps kept outside the walls of the occupied cities, which are seen as a step below the Factory on the punishment scale.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Desperus in "The Daleks' Master Plan".
    • In "Frontier in Space", the Doctor is sent to one on the Moon.
      • The Lunar Penal Colony is mentioned again in "Bad Wolf", when the Doctor, Jack and Lynda are nearly sent there without trial or appeal after interrupting a Deadly Game Show. They then break out in less than a minute.
    • The ultimate example from that show, though, may be Shada, prison planet of the Time Lords.
    • Varos in "Vengeance on Varos" is a former penal colony, which goes a long way to explaining why it is such a Wretched Hive in the present.
  • A variation in First Wave, where Joshua, after being exposed as a human sympathizer, is punished by being put into a specially-designed pocket dimension that exists in a never-ending "Groundhog Day" Loop with Joshua never retaining any memories of the past iterations. The loop lasts for about half-an-hour an involves Joshua racing against the clock to prevent the Gua from blowing up Earth after their Alien Invasion is thwarted, all the while evading human authorities on the lookout for Gua and their sympathizers. The "gulag", as he calls it, appears to be run by a computer that always counters Joshua's attempts. The only reason it starts to fail is when Cade enters the "gulag" to get Joshua out, causing memories of previous iterations to bleed through. After they manage to succeed and get out, Cain (Joshua's Evil Twin, or rather another Gua using a cloned husk/body from the same template) gets stuck in the gulag himself, with the setting updating to punish him (he has to forever chase Cade without being able to capture him).
  • Game of Thrones: What the three castles of the Night's Watch are. Criminals fill a good portion of the ranks as they picked joining the watch over execution. The rest are low-ranking highborn sons, bastards of nobles, or those who fought on the losing side of a war.
  • Intergalactic: The prisoners are being sent to an offworld prison colony from Earth. This includes Ash, who has not even been convicted of anything-she's in pretrial detention. However, they break out, hijacking the ship instead.
  • The Outpost: The mine beneath the Outpost the convicts are sent to is one.
  • The entire city of San Francisco, in one episode of Sliders.
  • The Space: 1999 episode "Devil's Moon" had a prison moon.
  • The heroes of Stargate SG-1 seem to wind up in these with alarming frequency. One of these was a world where the gate had no dialing device, although, if you happen to find a power source, you can just dial manually.
    • To be fair, the jailers probably made sure no advanced technology was available on this world. Who knew someone would develop plant-based cold fusion?
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • The episode "Dagger of the Mind" features the Tantalus Penal Colony, which also serves as an asylum for the criminally insane. It differs from the Elba II asylum (below) in that the inmates have been deemed curable, whereas the Elba II inmates are considered beyond hope.
      • Kirk makes Ceti Alpha V into a prison planet for Khan in the episode "Space Seed". That episode becomes the basis for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
      • The episode "Whom Gods Destroy" centres around a penal colony for the criminally insane, the Elba II asylum. It has the distinction of having a poisonous atmosphere, so the only way to escape is by starship.
    • A penal colony in New Zealand is shown in the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where Tom Paris was put after being captured while working for the Maquis.
  • In The Time Tunnel episode "Devil's Island'', the time travelers arrive on the French penal colony of Devil's Island just as new prisoners arrive. They are mistaken for two of the prisoners who have escaped and are imprisoned in their stead. The other prisoners are not interested in escape until Captain Alfred Dreyfus arrives on the island.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In ""The Lonely", a convicted murderer lives in isolation on a colonized asteroid, as the ultimate form of "solitary confinement".
  • Tracker (2001) has the cold planetoid SAR TOP used by the 6 races of the Migar System as a maximum security prison for their worst criminals. Most of the inmates' life force is taken at first and is slowly returned as they serve out their sentence. Since the fugitives are unable to survive on Earth as partial life forces, they have to take human bodies (killing their owners) to survive.

  • My Beloved Mother: This is the fate of Cantal, a medium-sized city converted into an internment camp for captured robots after the government issued a nationwide recall, with the intention of detonating a nuke in the middle of Cantal, wiping out all robots and destroying the whole city in order to make way for an expanding military base.

  • Steely Dan's "Sign In Stranger" (from The Royal Scam) is apparently about one of these. It seems to be entirely run by the inmates and has devolved into a lawless Wretched Hive.
  • "Jim Jones at Botany Bay", a traditional Australian folk ballad, today probably best known for being sung by Bob Dylan or for its inclusion in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
    • In a similar vein the Irish ballad "The Fields Of Athenry" ends with the male character being shipped off to Botany Bay for the crime of stealing corn from Lord Trevalyan to feed his starving family.

    Tabletop Games 
  • It Came from the Late, Late Show II adventure "Bjorn on the Bayou, or Escape from Alkatrazz XII". Alkatrazz XII is a prison planet with a population of 10,000, which is mostly made up of the prisoners and their robot guards. Warden Skrank is sadistic and corrupt, and his bodyguard Jorj is strong but stupid.
  • Alternity's Star*Drive setting. The prison planet of Lucullus, in the Verge. A former Union of Sol penal colony, it overthrew the remnant of the colonial government during the Second Galactic War.
  • GURPS Space Atlas 4. Cenotaph is a prison planet owned by the Phoenix Domain. The prisoners live underground and are forced to mine heavy metals if they want to have air, power, food and water.
  • Traveller
    • One prison planet is actually named Torment. It's a poor, low-population, non-industrial world in the Darrian subsector of the Spinward Marches. It holds the most incorrigible criminals, whose violent tendencies are considered impossible to cure. The planet is bitterly cold and barren, with only one central village of convicts. The prisoners must work in mining and industry to pay for the importation of sufficient food to survive. The prison is run by a hierarchy of criminals who require obedience from their fellow prisoners.
    • Classic Adventure 4 Leviathan. Gorgon is a planet of exile in the Egryn subsector of the Spinward Marches. It has several hundred prisoners from the Belgardian Sojourn society on the planet Belgard. Life is very harsh, with constant high velocity winds. The exiles live in a prison society that mines copper, zinc, palladium, silver and tin.
    • Classic supplement Alien Module 6 Solomani. During the reign of the Solomani Autonomous Region, all of the malcontents and criminals of the Ultima subsector were sent to the planet Iddamakur, turning it into a Prison Planet dumping ground.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has Penal Colonies, most of which have a toxic atmosphere. Some are used for mining, others are just used to hold the people. They are also used for recruitment into Penal Legions which are sent on missions too dangerous for normal troopers or ones which need the people who did it to be executed afterwards.
    • Of particular note is Deliverance, the penal colony moon of the planet Kiavahr where the Raven Guard Primarch Corax landed in his stasis pod. Corax organised the prisoners to overthrow their harsh and uncaring warders and take over the colony, before conquering Kiavahr itself and founding his own small empire. Eventually the facility was converted into his Space Marine chapter's headquarters, the Ravenspire.

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Benjamin Barker was sent to Botany Bay in Australia on false charges because the judge who sentenced him wanted his wife for himself. He escaped and returned to London under a new name: Sweeney Todd.

    Video Games 
  • In Crime Cities, the penal colony occupies a three planet star system, with criminals contained because hyperdrive unit construction is a well kept secret and drives are available in-system. Prisoners are distributed among the three planets according to how violent they are, based on the minimum, medium and maximum ratings. As part of a conspiracy, research for hyperdrive technology is occurring on the most violent planet.
  • The Isle of Despair in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the titular city run by Hugo Strange is this, with all of Gotham's criminals, insane or not, tossed in to die with minimal support from the outside. Naturally it devolves into a Wretched Hive/Hell Hole Prison mix almost instantly.
  • The prison stations orbiting Planet Houston, and, to a lesser extent, Houston itself in Freelancer.
  • The penal colony in which the game Gothic is set, in which the prisoners were supposed to mine magic ore for the king's armies. Rather than geography, it is separated from the rest of the world by a magical force field that lets people in, but kills anyone who tries to leave. It doesn't work out exactly as planned, as the mages who create the barrier accidentally make it larger than planned, trapping themselves inside and causing the prisoners to revolt, kill the guards and take over the mines. By the time of the game they've split into three factions, the strongest of which managed to reach a deal with the outside world: they continue to mine ore, and trade it for resources (such as food and women).
  • In Infinite Space, Skantzoura in the SMC and Lari and Belgirate in the LMC are planets or asteroids used as large prisons, specializing in dangerous or political prisoners.
  • In Pursuit of Greed begins with a mission in the Desarian Orbital Penal Colony, a space prison filled with rioting prisoners and security guards.
  • Mass Effect 3
    • Gellix, a minor ice world was used as a penal colony by the Systems Alliance from 2161, but was shut down in 2179 after racking up the worst prison safety record ever.
    • The Asari colony of Lesuss can also be considered a type of penal colony, as it holds an Ardat-Yakshi Monastery where asari who suffer from the Ardat-Yakshi genetic disorder are forced to live, usually against their will. The planetary description even mentions how strange is it for the asari to continue to maintain a small colony there, despite Lesuss being on the lower scale of habitability. It also notes that the colony only has a couple thousad inhabitants in a few remote locations and how everything about the colony is classified to the rest of asari society.
  • The Outcasts from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor are a variation. They are descended from prisoners used to construct the Black Gate, once the gate was finished the prisoners made a break for it into Mordor with the guards not stopping them as it just meant they were out of their hair. The prisoners eventually made a life for themselves and became their own culture.
  • Ceti Alpha Stadium, home of the all-alien Galaxy Chaos team in Mutant Football League, is an asteroid penal colony the players are all prisoners of.
  • In Myst V, one of the ages you go to is a prison age. Back in old D'ni society, hardened criminals were shipped off to prison ages; one-way linking books to harsher worlds. There was no way out without help from the outside. The D'ni criminals were left to their own devices on prison ages; they formed their own societies.
  • Wraeclast in Path of Exile is the main setting of the game. Criminals from the island nation of Oriath are exiled to this continent for crimes big or small and are expected to fend off its deadly creatures, undead, and other exiles gone insane. Considering this game was made in New Zealand, it's clearly a fantasy version of Sentenced to Down Under.
  • Planet Alcatraz is set on a planet-wide penal colony called Seaman's Silence (a nod to an actual detention facility in Moscow by that name). Convicts with life sentences are dropped here on landing pods (which might not even land safely) and left to fend for themselves. The player takes command of an Imperial Space Marine sent there as a prisoner to locate and destroy a ship being constructed in secret by the prisoners. The player starts with nothing and much make his way up the prison food chain in order to accomplish his mission. On the way, he finds the rest of his squad, separated during the landing. The prison is heavily inspired by Real Life Russian penal colonies, although Executive Meddling has reduced the amount of violence, racism, and gay sex to slightly more appropriate levels and has introduced female NPCs (despite the vehement protests of the lead writer Dmitry Puchkov, a former cop) as sex-slaves smuggled onto the male-only planet. Despite these changes, the game is still largely un-marketable in the Western world due to the content.
  • StarCraft:
    • StarCraft's backstory states that the entire human presence in the Koprulu Sector started out as a penal colony, with a large number of criminals and undesirables simply shipped off of Earth into unknown space. The modern Terran Confederacy and Dominion are their descendants. Earth forces do show up in Brood War to take control, and eventually get stomped flat by the continuous conflict in the region.
    • New Folsom in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a volcanic world where the Dominion keeps everyone from political prisoners to psychotic psychic operatives. If you choose to side with Tosh he and Raynor's Raiders bust it open in an afternoon. Granted they have access to tactical nukes.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Oovo IV in various games, which also serves as a podracing track.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic brings us Belsavis, which was a prison planet for more surprisingly, the Republic, rather than the Imperials.
    • The aforementioned Kessel is featured in Rogue Squadron and notably in Empire at War, where the prisons are buildings which, upon destruction, spawn rebel-aligned Civilian units or infantry.
  • Stellaris: Patch 2.2 allows empires to designate a world as a penal colony, which has a higher rate of crime due to most of its inhabitants being exiled criminals, but gains immigrants very quickly and reduces crime on other worlds, as the other worlds ship their criminals into this prison world.

  • The colony of Dariy'ako in Drowtales is one of these, and is populated either by political prisoners or people who are unable to pay tribute to the ruling Sharen clan.
  • A minor running gag in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is that the Pirates of Ipecac don't want to be sent to the Lint Mines of Dustworld. "The dust bunnies! Shudder!"
  • The Eye in The Lydian Option is a self-contained asteroid prison with few rules - the guards rarely intervene in fights between prisoners unless directly threatened.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Petey seems to be turning the Andromeda Galaxy into one for the more aggressive races from the Milky Way to make themselves useful. It's commented upon in at least one strip, as is his resemblance to a koala.

    Web Original 
  • Penal colonies feature a fair amount in Look to the West. After the American colonies object to being used as one (which was Truth in Television before the American Revolutionary War in our timeline), Britain switches to using Newfoundland and Michigan, and later West Africa. France meanwhile uses French Guiana and Russia uses Siberia, which they also did in Real Life.
  • Tech Infantry had the Federation penal colony in the R45 system, which was also a Death World.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Ben 10 series, the dimension known as the "Null Void" is used by many alien civilizations to dump their criminals. Kevin was once sent there before he reformed and became one of the good guys.
    • In the Ben 10: Alien Force episode "Voided", it's revealed the Null Void was originally created by the Galvans as one of these, and while there are still prisons there for the more dangerous criminals, several land masses are actually inhabited by the now peaceful descendants of the original prisoners.

     Real Life 
  • Australia was famously used as a penal colony by the British for eighty years (1788-1868), after losing access to their North American penal colonies due to American independence. Notably Brisbane was actually founded as a double-plus penal colony, for transported convicts who committed crimes again while in Australia. This forms the basis of the Sentenced to Down Under trope. The widespread use of penal colonies came because British society decided the death penalty had become overused (by this period it was applicable to a wide variety of property crimes, not just the expected offenses of murder, piracy and treason), to the extent that juries were sometimes reluctant to convict criminals whose theft was perceived as too minor to merit execution. Penal transportation provided a non-lethal method of getting rid of thieves.
  • Allegedly, many deportees to Australia attempted to escape by walking across the massive deserts in the interior, in the belief that China, and freedom, lay just over the horizon. Apparently, they died of thirst and heat exhaustion in the desert, though more probably this tale was invented by the authorities to explain the low number of deportees who survived to the end of their sentence, as it sounded better than "died from overwork, starvation or total lack of sanitation" or "beaten to death by sadistic guards". Some actually survived when taken in by friendly Aboriginal tribes. They provided some of the few accounts on Aboriginal life prior to their rule by white settlers (written ones, anyway, as the tribes lacked writing systems).
  • In the previous century, before the discovery of Australia and with minimal North American colonies, Cromwell prevented further dissent in post-Civil War Britain by exiling dissenters and extremistsnote  to the West of Ireland, then seen as a sufficiently remote penal colony. English exiles married into the Irish, were assimilated as Irish, and bequeathed English names like Smith, Higgins and Adams to Ireland.note  Others were sent to Barbados, joining white indentured servants as well. Descendants of theirs still live there, both known as "red legs" because they naturally were sunburned, though since the 19th century many have moved to other nearby islands in the Caribbean.
  • Devil's Island in French Guiana. Modernly famous for the memoir Papillon written by inmate Henri Charrière (later a Steve McQueen film of the same name), though his account is full of unlikely elements.
  • Côn Sơn Island in French Indochina.
  • The Gulags of Siberia and other remote places (the Arctic north, Sakhalin) were used this way by the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, the major industrial cities of Norilsk, Vorkuta, and Magadan all started out as Gulags. Penal colonies are still a type of prison in Russia, with a rather lax security regime supplemented by being in the middle of nowhere.
  • During the early years of WWII the Nazis planned to deport Europe's Jews to Madagascar, which was under the control of Vichy France. The plan was put on hold when it became clear the UK would not surrender, then scrapped in favor of the Final Solution when Commonwealth and Free French forces captured Madagascar.
  • The Andaman Islands were used as a penal colony for participants of the Indian independence movement.
  • Islas Marías Federal Prison in Mexico is an example of an extant penal colony.
  • The early American colonies were a popular destination for persons convicted of crimes; they would arrange with the prosecutor to become indentured servants in America, and after a term of years (typically seven years) would win their freedom. Furthermore, the state of Georgia was originally founded by Britain in 1732 specifically as a colony for the poor and those imprisoned for being unable to pay their debts (rather than having committed some crime), the idea being that they could work their debts off as farmers rather than rot in jail. However, after the War of Independence, Britain had nowhere to transport convicts who had previously been going to America.note  Canada was not an option for various reasons (chief among them unsuitable geography and a desire not to piss off the Francophones), and obviously India, the other big British colony was out of the question, again because of the locals and the geography (there were too many native Indians to ignore, and the convicts weren't needed to do colonization work outside of the few who joined the East India Company's army). After a while, though, the British noticed that Australia was conveniently unclaimed by any of the other European powers, and was therefore "empty" (try telling an 18th century European that Aboriginal Australians are real people, and you'll probably get laughed out of the room).note  And so Australia was chosen, and you probably know the rest of the story if you've read the rest of this section.
  • During WWI and WWII, captured Axis prisoners of war were sent to the POW camps in the Prairies of America or Canada. These camps generally needed no walls or heavy guard, as they were so far away from civilization that a person can walk for days without encountering another person. An oft-told story concerns a band of ragged and starving escapees (unused to the sheer size of North American countries and provinces/states) finally encountering a person after a grueling march and asking him if they are in Mexico—only to be informed that they have not even made it past the county lines yet.
  • Angola was this for Portugal. A place of incurable diseases, with Portugal only controlling a couple of forts and whose only important activity until its abolition was slave capture and export (although later came some others, like diamonds), this all changed during The '50s when finally the diseases were curable and in came non-prisoners attracted by new-found fertile lands for agriculture, especially coffee, cocoa and sisal. Later, oil was struck during The '70s. Although, it must be noted, prisoners still went to Angola 'till the end (by then Angola won its independence however).
    • East Timor was another, during the Constitutional Monarchy, 1st Republic and early New State periods, but for Anarchists and (during the Monarchy) Republicans. The Carrascalão family, prominent in East Timor politics, are the descendents of an Anarchist who was deported there and later got rich with a coffee plantation, even becoming Mayor of Dili (the country's capital).
    • Tarrafal (aka Chão Bom in the Sixties and Seventies) in Cape Verde was a combination of this and The Alcatraz for New State opponents and colonial independence fighters. It was infamous for the overall bad conditions of the place, as well as the frigideira ("frying pan"), an isolation unit made entirely of zink in which - due to being completely closed as well as the climate being tropical - many prisoners died of insolation.
  • Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba is home to the controversial US military prison of the same name. The land the base is on has been rented by the US since 1903, and since the Communist government of Cuba cashed one rent check for the land, the contract is still considered valid by both countries (and therefore, Cuba tolerates a US presence on their soil, not unlike how West Berlin was in the midst of East Germany during the Cold War). However, it was not used as a military prison until 2002.

Alternative Title(s): Prison Colony