Crime and Punishment in Virginia

Virginia's original immigrants from England were men willing to risk their lives in hope of obtaining economic advancement. Those who were poor in England could become wealthy in Virginia, and many chose to become an indentured servant for seven years rather than turn to a life of crime in England. However, some who chose to be criminals were caught and shipped to Virginia involuntarily, just as England shipped convicts to Ireland and later to Australia.

The need for labor to grow Virginia tobacco was high, especially in the early days when the death rate exceeded the natural increase of the population. Plantation owners were willing to accept workers who were less-than-fully-committed to their indentures, and would occasionally run away. However, the percentage on immigrants who were criminals or orphans was small - ten groups totally less than 1,500 people between 1620-1630, and by 1670 English criminals were no longer welcomed in the colony.1

Parole in Virginia

Prisons in Virginia

First Prison in Colonial Virginia

Modern Prisons in Virginia

Death Row and Executions in Virginia

Counting Prisoners in Virginia



1. Croghan, Laura A., "'The Negroes to Serve Forever': The Evolution of Blacks's Life and Labor in Seventeenth-Century Virginia," Masters Thesis, William and Mary, 1994, p. 10-11

Population of Virginia
Virginia Places