Infamous Prisons: Devil’s Island

Infamous Prisons: Devil’s Island

Prison Block on Devil's Island

History has left its mark on various types of places scattered all over the world. Nowadays we travels to see the ruins of Machu Pichu, the pyramids of Giza, the castles of England or the Great Wall of China. However, prisons hold a unique mystery of their own. Renowned for their famous prisoners, escape attempts or inhuman treatments of the inmates, the prisons of the past now stand as testimony to the passage of time and act as tourist attractions. One such prison is the penal colony of Devil’s Island.

The penal colony of Cayenne also known under the name Devil’s Island is one of the most famous prisons in the world. It operated for 94 years during the 19th and 20th century and housed about 80.000 prisoners in that period. During the time it functioned, the prison was home to all kinds of inmates, from political prisoners to hardened criminals. The most famous prisoner of Devil’s Island was by far Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Prisoners who managed to escape from Devil’s Island had to face piranha infested waters and thick jungles.

However, the prison won its notoriety partially thanks to Henri Charriere, one of its inmates. After his successful escape from prison, the man wrote about his incarceration at Devil’s Island and numerous escape attempts made by himself and others. The book, called Papillon, became immensely popular and was turned into a movie starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.

The prison closed at the middle of the 20th century, in 1952. The historical buildings of the penal colony were restored and turned into a tourist attraction. Nowadays it is possible to take tours of the island in order to visit it. Moreover, numerous cruise ships pass by Devil’s Island and upon request passengers can be taken there to view the remains of the prison.

Do you know other infamous prisons like Devil’s Island?

Source and Images: and

Katie Zahel
Written by