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The concept of using prison as a punishment for convicted criminals is a relatively new one. Prior to 19th Century Britain, prisons were used primarily to detain suspects awaiting their trial, or prisoners marked for death until the sentence could be carried out. Those not sentenced to death were commonly sent into workhouses, slavery, or penal colonies. The modern day theory behind using prisons as punishment is one of "rehabilitation", though the validity of this approach is questionable. In America especially, high re-arrest rates imply there is no rehabilitation or “good behavior”; that once convicted, a criminal's life is forever linked to wrongdoing.
Though philosophies have evolved, many practices have not. In Britain during the Regency and Victorian periods, prison ships, sometimes called prison hulks, were used extensively as a means for transporting prisoners to penal colonies, typically bound for places like Australia and Tasmania. However, the British penal system quickly recognized the effectiveness of water as a means of imprisonment and began using prison hulks solely as a means of incarceration, rather than transport. These stationary vessels would be packed to capacity with prisoners and anchored just within sight of the tantalizing coast, but just far enough away that the endless deep on which they floated promised to swallow any man foolish enough to attempt a swim to shore. The conditions within-