Thursday, 23rd May 2019


10 Historic and Famous Prisons

  • Hoa Loa Prison, Vietnam

The Hoa Loa Prison was originally built by the French to hold Vietnamese political prisoners. The North Vietnamese Army later used it to incarcerate prisoners during the Vietnam War. Prisoners were subject to torture, starvation and even murder. Inmates included Senator John McCain and Bud Day (the U.S Airforce Colonel and Command Pilot).

  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia

Converted from a high school to a prison in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge, it has been described as one of the most horrific prisons in the world. Prisoners were regularly tortured until they confessed and named conspirators; they were then executed. Of the 17,000 that were incarcerated in Tuol Sleng, only a few survived. In 1979 it was turned into a museum to remember those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

  • Port Arthur, Tasmania

From 1833 to the 1850s the hardest British and Irish criminals were sent to Port Arthur in Tasmania. Many of the buildings still stand today including the church, insane asylum and hospital. It is also a famous prison due to the 1996 massacre where a single gunman opened fire on visitors, killing 35 people.

  • Elmina Castle, Ghana

Elmina Castle is the oldest European building still standing south of the Sahara. Built in 1492 it was used as a holding area for those captured into slavery. Slaves were often in cells with 200 others, often not even enough space to lie down. By the 18,000 over 30,000 slaves were passing through the castle each year.

  • Robben Island, South Africa

Robben Island, located just off the coast of Cape Town has been used for a huge variety of functions including a leper colony. It is most famous for serving as a prison during the apartheid regime wehre Nelson Mandela and Kgalema Motalanthe were just a few of the political prisoners that spent time there. Today it is a huge tourist attraction and a breeding ground for African penguins.

  • Goree Island, Senegal

The Maison des Esclaves (the house of slaves) is one of the many houses on the island that held slaves before shipping them to the New World. It is now a museum and often a pilgrimage site for many who are tracing their Africa-American roots.

  • Chateau d'If, France

Most famous for its use in the book 'The Count of Monte Cristo', from 1634 to the end of the 19th century it held religious and political prisoners. Located on a small island a mile offshore in the Bay of Marseille, its isolated location and dangerous offshore currents make it the perfect location to hold convicts.

  • Devil's Island, French Guiana

First built in 1852, the Devil's Island prison is one of the most infamous prisons in history, home to hardened thieves, murders and political prisoners. Those that tried to escape faced piranha-infested waters and thick jungles

  • Tower of London

The Tower of London served as a prison from 1100 to the mid twentieth century; famous prisoners include Sir Thomas More, King Henry VI, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. It has a reputation as one of the most haunted buildings in England and is now home to the British Crown Jewels.

  • Alcatraz, USA

One of the most famous prisons in the United States, it is located on a rocky island surrounded by freezing waters and it believed to be inescapable. It has been home to some of the most notorious criminals of all time including Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Of the 36 men that attempted escape, 23 were caught, 6 were shot and killed and 2 drowned. The remaining 5 were never seen again and believed they drowned. Today it is a historic site operated by the National Park Service.