Sent to Veenhuizen

After the establishment of the free colonies in Frederiksoord, Willemsoord and Wilhelminaoord, and the detention facility of Ommerschans, General Johannes van den Bosch has a second penal colony built in Veenhuizen in 1822, hoping that here ‘the lazy one will by sheer necessity be brought to earn a living through work’, in order to make them ‘useful people’.

Life in the colony was hard, although the colonists actually had had nothing else than poor living conditions. They were vagrants, alcoholics, prostitutes and penniless orphans.

Complete families were sent to Veenhuizen, and a distressing thing was that family members were separated from each other immediately upon arrival. In the Veenhuizen colony, men, women and children lived apart from each other. Some eighty people used to live in collective rooms, where they ate and slept. The children too had to work, most often in the field. However, they all received education.

Whoever was sent to Veenhuizen was released at any moment and given some money to travel back to their homes. Unfortunately, recidivism was high and many of them kept returning to the colony – because they did not manage to keep their head above the water in the outside world, or for whatever other reason.