Devils Island: The Most Dreaded Prison In The World
The Devil’s Island is said to be the most dreaded prison in the history of mankind. The island was set up as a penitentiary by the French emperor Napoleon III in 1852. The island is said to have housed the most hardened criminals in human history. It is reputed to have been the dwelling place of murderers, thieves, politicians and psychopaths. The island is located at about 7 miles off the coast of French Guiana and can be reached by boat.
Record has it that of the thousands of prisoners sent to this island, more than 80,000 of them were never seen again. It is a palm-covered rocky island rising 131 feet above sea level. The water surrounding the island was infested with piranhas and beyond that there was a dense jungle. Escape from this island was practically impossible.
The island was said to be harsh conditioned and disease-infested. As an island, the only way of escaping was through the water; accordingly, very few convicts ever managed to escape. Even if someone were successful in crossing the rivers he would still be caught by Dutch soldiers stationed in the jungle.
Notable Events at Devil’s Island
On the 30th of May in 1854, a new law was provided stating that convicts would be forced to stay in French Guiana after their release for a time equivalent to their forced labor time, or, for those sentenced for crimes exceeding eight years, for the remainder of their lives. Provisions were to be made for them to settle. In time, a variety of penal regimes emerged, convicts being divided into categories according to the gravity of their crimes and their imprisonment or forced residence regime.
A limited number of convicted women were equally sent to French Guiana, with the sole purpose of hooking up with the freed male inmates; however, the results were poor and the government was forced to discontinue the practice in 1907.
The horrors of the Devil’s Island became notorious with the publicity surrounding the plight of the French army captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been unjustly convicted of treason and sent there on 5 January 1895.
Until 1952, the Devil’s Island was a penal colony.
Escapes From The Devils Island
Though the Island was deemed inescapable, there were several incidents of both successful and unsuccessful escapes. The most renowned and notable escape was that of Clement Duval.
The Escape of Clément Duval
From 1852 to 1946, those French prisoners who were believed to have committed treasonable offence or anarchy were sent mainly to the Devil's Island. Clément Duval, an anarchist, was sent to Devil's Island in 1886. He was sentenced to death but this sentence commuted to hard labor on Devil's Island. He contracted smallpox while on the island. Fortunately, he escaped in April 1901 and fled to New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life. His book, Revolte, told the story of his sentence and life in prison.
Devil’s Island In Present Time
After 1938 the government of France stopped sending prisoners to Devil's Island, and subsequently in 1952 this prison was closed down permanently.
At presently, the Salvation Islands (Isles du Salut) of which Devil's Island is a part is used by Guiana Space Center for studying space launches. More than 50,000 tourists come to this island annually to visit the prison and the Space Center.
The Devil’s Island is a place to visit if you are a tourist who likes hopping around.