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A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison", sometimes referred to in slang as simply a "con". Convicts are often called prisoners or inmates. Persons convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentence often are not termed "convicts". Ex-convict (or short: ex-con) is a common way of referring to a person who has been released from prison.

Historical usage

A particular use of the term in the English-speaking world is to refer to the huge numbers of criminals who clogged British gaols in the 18th and early 19th century. Initially many were sent to the American colonies as cheap labour, but the War of Independence brought that solution to an end.

British convicts were transported to the Province of Georgia between 1733 and the American revolution. After this, convicts could no longer be transported to America and Britain looked to the newly discovered east coast of Australia to use as a penal colony. Convicts were transported to Australia in 1788 from the very start of European settlement and were used as labourers in five out of the six major colonies. Transportation was eventually abolished in 1868. In Australia, convicts have come to be key figures of cultural mythology and historiography. British convicts were also sent to Canadamarker and Indiamarker. Francemarker also sent convicts to French Guianamarker and New Caledoniamarker. Russianmarker criminals who were shipped to Siberiamarker can arguably be regarded as convicts.1. “The convict system has been rightly called a ‘Gigantic Lottery’. The element of luck was greatly increased by the adoption of the assignment system, whereby many convicts were assigned to individual settlers to act as servants, shepherds, hutkeepers, or workers in some other capacity.”

See also


  1. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, p. 311 (2d Coll. Ed. 1978).
  2. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, p. 292 (2d Coll. Ed. 1978).

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